FALLING
By Jolene Perry

Dedication
To all my snowmachining peoples, the ones whose first rule is “more throttle…” You KNOW who you are… (James, Josh, Rory…)

COPYRIGHT

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission of the author except where permitted by law. Published by Next Door Publishing Copyright October 2012 The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

but when you make it to twenty-two and have pretty much gotten everything you really wanted. I mean. I know the saying is out there. .DANA Somebody really should have told me that you can’t always get what you want. it starts to feel like it was said for someone else.

great description.Of All The Crappy Things to Happen on the Way to a Party There hasn’t been anything but scattered ends of driveways for miles. My GPS doesn’t even recognize the fact that my car is on a road right now.” I say out loud. Easy. creepiness in my chest at how I’m alone. The dark trees press in. I’m looking around at nothing but trees and snow. . And now I’m kicking myself for not riding with another Anchorage friend. I love my BMW. I’m starting to get that itchy. I’ll be lucky to make it to the party in time for breakfast. I flip on the interior light in my car. in the middle of nowhere. “Crap. and my GPS would get me back out. Louis. Only at this rate.” I say to myself. take the steering wheel in one hand. but I know not to make eye contact. Annoyed would be an understatement. I could end up in a bad neighborhood. and try not to think about how long it’s been since I saw another human being. “Wow. trying to follow Katie’s directions when I reach a dead end. but it wasn’t made for driving on ice. really wanted to drive with me. If I get lost in St. I’d rather be mugged than run into a bear. I might never be found. My roommate. despite their snow covering. which begs the question—who would choose to live out here? Tonight is supposed to be the employee New Year’s Eve party for the hotel where I work—a week late. Leann. Katie. If I get lost on the back streets of Alaska. I look over the directions again. and check the directions again. and my unease grows. in the pitch black. since we were all playing “host and hostess” on the actual night. Go a long ways on this road. My car skids to the left on the icy road as I take the right turn indicated on the map.

Where were they ten minutes ago when I was completely lost? Two cars are pulled over to the side of the road. I hit the opposite side with so much force that I crash through the snow bank. I slow down to pass them and look over. and eyes wide. I hit the gas to get out of his way and slide sideways. but is probably only five minutes later. making me lose my breath. The pounding of my heart’s loud in my ears and my side hurts too bad for a deep breath. Flashes of headlights swirl through my car as I spin backwards across the road. This road has actual traffic. frustrated. Oh. and head back the way I came. not a wilderness adventure. sharp pains take my breath away again and my heart . I’m looking around now though. Glass breaks as the door pushes into my side. I run my hand through my long. but the snow banks make that impossible. I don’t have time to think. I gasp for air. Guess I did turn onto a shady street. Neck tattoo. even way up here.My mistake was only one turn ago. straight hair. It’s too dark to see. “side” makes it sound like someone could get off the road. What feels like thirty minutes. the truck I saw a few minutes ago tries to swerve around me. down the incline. and Anchorage suddenly feels like a bustling metropolis. but it doesn’t budge. Anchorage can be stifling. After growing up in a big city. Half of my face is now throbbing. Well. but quickly turn away when beady eyes are on me. As I try to crawl toward the passenger’s side. I give another half-hearted push to the door. If I turned right when I should have turned left then I need go straight. and I don’t know how to get out of my car. and slam into the trees. but the pain is slicing. feeling fidgety more than anything else. Just as I hit the middle of the roadway. I’m finally at the intersection where I slid and turned wrong. I turn around. and the throbbing continues down my whole left side. My fingers feel numb as I feel around for my phone but can’t find it anywhere. annoyed. Or even if I can. my whole left side throbs. but I’ve been on this road for what feels like an hour. I must be wedged in. This is supposed to be a party. Now there’s taillights.

“You’re lucky I was here. He looks like Daniel Craig’s twin. I start shaking all over. My poor beautiful car… “I’m on my way down. and I can’t believe a trooper was this close—guess I should count myself lucky. At least he’ll know I’m not passed out. he has the door open. “Hang in there. My body starts to relax in relief. Out the window is nothing but snow. Gloved hands brush away the snow on the passenger’s side window. the cold air is coming in fast. I’m taking shallow.” he calls again. and stuck in the ditch. but can’t take a deep enough breath to do more than whisper.” My words come out as a whisper. It’s starting to get even harder to breathe. Not without help. I honk instead. It’s freezing out there. How did this happen? I’m supposed to be at a party right now. It was just so fast. The movement sends new waves of pain through me as the adrenaline leaves my system. even breaths and trying not to panic. “No. He must be coming toward me fast. I try to yell back. not dizzy. in pain. I feel something like relief that there are other cars out here and someone stopped for help. Some jerk ran me off the road. . making me shiver harder.” he yells. “Are you okay?” A male voice calls.” My eyes close as I try to focus on the fact that someone saw me hit the ditch and is getting help. “I just happened to be on my way home. “How are we?” “What?” All I want is out of my car. After a few jerks. and with one door open and my broken window.goes frantic. I’m with the troopers. “How did you end up down here? Moving a little too fast?” A gorgeous face asks. and my vision is getting spotty. I wipe tears from my face. and the pain slice deeper. My name is Craig Huffman. I stare at him for a moment before answering.” His voice gets louder quickly. I don’t think I can move to get out of the other side of the car. Nice.

“How are we?” he asks again. My head is pounding. . I feel out of breath and just nod. I’m seeing more spots. and everything slowly goes black.

I’m a bit amazed that it’s still smooth. There was an ambulance. more. brown hair. stronger… “Thanks. a few cracked ribs and micro-fractures in pretty much all the ribs on my left side.” But now I’m curious. and in a hospital bed probably won’t be very effective. “Shouldn’t you be somewhere?” The drugs have numbed my brain along with the pain. and then spot Craig the trooper. in pain. At the hospital. My hipbone is bruised. I think I nod. I hate fluorescent lighting and antiseptic smell.” “No. “You had an In Case of Emergency number in your phone?” He raises a brow like he’s asking.” I smile back. I’m still blinking. I run a hand over my long.” . “And I’d like to ask you a few questions. and walking might hurt for a while.” “Okay then. sitting here in this comfortable chair in a room with a beautiful girl isn’t a bad way to earn a bit of overtime. “I hope I’m not intruding by being in here. There’s a twinge of wanting my family here. but it’s obvious he’s already called. and now I’m in a hospital room. I was carried. but I’m not sure. That Was Not What I Was Expecting – on Two Counts I’ve been blinking in an attempt to wake up. There was a guy like James Bond. “You called. no.” He smiles appreciatively.” I only remember flashes after he introduced himself. But I quash that one fast because the reality is my brother and father would probably stress me out more than they’d help—making me feel like I should be healing faster.Okay. “No. I grimace. realizing that flirting while dizzy. The hot guy was real. “You’re tough.” He smiles. better. trying to gain focus when a nurse explains I have a bad concussion.

I’m sure he’ll tell my dad. His phone rings. you know.” I frown. “Your brother is very nice. Craig is still watching me. I’m surprised and a little disappointed.” I bring my hands to my face and find a small bandage near my temple. That’s good. I’ll be home as soon as I’m done. that’s bad. “You’re married?” I guess. and he answers immediately. but he’d probably find out anyway.” “Great.” He hangs up his phone. He nods again. “Yeah. “Yep… I’m at the hospital now and need to interview the victim… She says she saw the car that ran her off the road but she blacked out. He also has a bit of a sexy job. and has the same slight smile accentuating how James Bond like he is. “I wasn’t sure. It’s just that New York wasn’t nearly far enough from home. You might have had a husband waiting for you at home or something. “Barely. more overtime… Okay.” He leans back in his chair.” “It’s bad and you’re on some good drugs.” “Well.” I laugh and gasp when splitting pains hit my left side. I said not to worry. I’m second-guessing my decision to be here instead of in New York.He nods. but he’s staring. “Wow. Being the young single girl is what my time in Alaska is supposed to be about—though. . “It’s going to take you a while to heal up.” “No ring?” He shrugs. Not bad. I’m sure I’m a mess.” His head goes from side to side. Thanks. Not at all like the spoiled boys I dated through my years at Northwestern. “Sorry.” he says. Ever. “Kids?” I ask. It’s rough right now. looking way too comfortable for how gorgeous he is—like he should be posed or something. and we haven’t had a chance to talk about it yet… Well. I never take sick days. though.

and I tell him everything. “What happened to you?” Craig asks as he comes back in the room. “Just annoyed at the situation.” I’m not stupid—something else is going on. but Keith loves to deliver news about Dana to Dad. Concern is one thing.” He glances down at his notes. “I need to make a call. “I know you just woke up. At least Leann lives in my half-renovated house with me. As I talk. . It’s doubtful—he and our dad are tight. and I’ll have someone to help out if I need it. This is the only time I hate being alone. I’ll have to call Dad tomorrow. “Does that surprise you?” A brow rises. Maybe I’ll get lucky and my brother. it’s different.” “Sure. “I’ll be right outside.” Damn. quietly because I’m in pain. I frown. My whole night has been a disaster. “So. The ribs along my left side are really sore. but this is something else. What I saw. but the sooner we get on this. That would figure.” I would have sworn he was into me a little.” He walks to the side of the bed with his phone. Keith.” “I’m sorry about the picture. are you up to answering a few questions?” Craig asks. “No. but it’s all I have. but I’ll come back to ask you a few more questions if you’re up for it. but when I’m in a position to need help.” If it keeps you here. his face gets more and more serious. and the guys. I love being away from the pressure of my family.” I pause. won’t have said anything. the better.“Wow. I must be scowling. Not only that. That’s something. and my head spins when I lift it. He asks me about the cars. what the cars looked like. “But it does mean I must be losing my touch. I love my independence.

“Well.” What kind of a mess am I in? And I get to see him again tomorrow? . He was alive just hours ago. I don’t want to come across as anything but calm.I hold my breath. “So I might have a million more questions for you tomorrow. not trusting my voice. “Is that one of the guys you saw?” he asks. More than shocked. “And the other guy had a tattoo on his neck and was driving a white truck with orange pinstripes?” I nod once. The guy from the side of the road is lying in a pool of blood. I’ll definitely be in touch because the only other witness we have is someone who heard the shot. but I’m shocked.” Craig frowns a bit as he tucks the phone in his pocket. It’s better than gasping. even though part of me is completely freaking out. I try to act cool. My brain can’t wrap around it. I just nod.

. it doesn’t just end. It explodes. because when it ends.JASON Somebody really should have told me that marrying your childhood sweatheart might not be the best idea.

keep on top of school.” “But not so awfully. and Justine’s exuberance filled a lot of holes in my rundown lodge. It’s a done deal. “I promise if you let me stay with you. and not to someone you’ve known for so long. and haven’t totally figured out what I’m going to do now that she’s headed back to our parents’ house in Juneau. You took it too far keeping from Mom how behind you are. and maybe Mom will let you hang with me once in a while. Like Most Things Seem To Be. She’s been crying on and off since we left home. “Worse things have happened. I’ll keep up with my home school. her blond hair in a mess around her damp face. And to be honest. We’re at the airport. I promise you’ll survive. I can’t run the lodge without her. . I’ve been getting pleas for the whole three hours from my lodge to Anchorage. I swear. sis. “You know no such thing! I haven’t been in public school since middle school!” “It’s not up to me. “It’s just a divorce. “What about you?” Her worry cuts into my chest.” Justine frowns.” She clutches my shirt more tightly. she saved my ass in more than one way. but I know it won’t stop her from one last plea. more as an act of desperation than affection.Mixed. Jus.” Justine’s shoulders fall and her hands relax. grasping my shoulders and staring at me with wide eyes. I chuckle and pat her back. Justine. “You know I think she’s a horrible bitch.” She pulls away. “Mom misses you.” “But. My little sister.” I chuckle knowing that my little sister totally saved my sorry ass for the first half of the snowmachining season this year. “Call me anytime. Cass walking out last spring was more than a shock. People do it all the time. Justine. And besides…” I want her to feel good about going. throws her arms around me. and that I’ll hate her forever.

Justine frowns. Away from civilization. and I don’t know if it’s spiting her.” She rolls her eyes. or helping me. and that she’s not as annoyed as she lets on. Justine. or what. No Justine. “This is gross and needs to go.” I know she’s right. but since Cass left. No Cass. I just stopped. Alone. because as much as I . You could shave that thing off. and I bet you could get a date. The lodge is dark and empty like it normally is in the middle of the week. it’s staying. or damaging me. The wood walls reflect the firelight. is probably in for the night. but I’m not sure how it comes off. By the time I drive the three hours back. But no matter what. her way of saying that she’ll be okay. I turn to leave. All the time. Boz. Not yet. and I feel immediately relaxed. I’m definitely going to be looking forward to the weekends.” Only I won’t.” I pull away because Justine and I have had this conversation way too many times. “Ugh. Away from Anchorage.okay?” I try to give her a reassuring smile. “You look like…like a total slob. but she has to get the last word in. We both know I’m not ready for another woman. “I’ll think about it.” “Bye. It doesn’t stop Justine from picking them out for me.” I wave her off and continue toward my old Rover. No one would like a beard that looks like this.” She shakes her head.” She huffs. “You always say that. and I know she’ll be okay because she’s about to say something that’ll annoy the crap out of me. my only neighbor. I’m exhausted but relieved to be alone. and I swear the old lodge echoes every breath I make. I’m stubborn. Jason. “I like the beard.” “No. She tugs at my beard. and jump on my snowmachine for the last few miles home. Not by a long shot. “You know.

I’m liable to go crazy in this place without distraction.want to be by myself. .

but I know he’s busy at work. I still hadn’t heard anything from you. everything’s taken care of. isn’t enough to keep me on top right now. They have a car waiting for me.” His voice is strong. I jump to sitting.” I try to sound relaxed and like I haven’t been taking narcotics. I’m sorry. I’m just desperate for him to be proud of me. and I’m not simply stuck behind my brother. “Oh! Dad! Totally not necessary!” I don’t care how much it hurts.DANA It’s a Love You vs. Throw in my need to get away from school and the big city for a year. and I’m definitely going to be dependent on other people. please don’t come. but lagging. Sibling rivalry sucks—especially when I’m the one who’s behind.” His voice is full of concern. “Your brother called me last night! And as of this morning.” Please. I’ve already called my insurance. “I have a flight up there this evening. Dad. even from Northwestern. There’s nothing for you to do up here. and means to be listened to. and then more tears come because I hate feeling dependent on other people. You Terrify Me Thing That I Just Can’t Explain “Hey. “Hmm. It makes me sad that I have this strain over our relationship because I love my dad. I’ll take care of everything. and I know coming up . I’m on my way to my house now. steady. and like I’m not still stuck in the hospital. A business degree. I will sound normal. sweetie.” He doesn’t sound completely convinced. To be proud of me like he is of my brother. “I know. The pain brings tears to my eyes. which I immediately regret.

You know. . I’ve been there for six. two months max. I’m still on the fence about being in Alaska.” I smile. I have money and my job is waiting for me.” “You’re never going to get anything going like this. “I know. and am not sure when I want to go back to college for my master’s. There’s nothing for you to do. and he’s going to stay where he is. “Really. In his mind a house should be flipped in under a month.” I’m really struggling to sound normal. and she can help out when I get home. I might find something else and do it faster. It cuts into his golfing time. It’s the number one rule. I like the house. Leann’s already at the hospital to pick me up.” “How is that house of yours coming?” I sigh. He’s not mad at me. He’s called me that since I was a baby. Dad. Dad.” He sounds like my boss now. I can tell. but just a little. He doesn’t like being behind. I like living there or it would be sold already. My chest sinks. but it hurts to talk like this. “I love you. “Don’t get attached. the hardest call is over.” I have to laugh at that. I know already that I’m going to miss the place when I’m done—though. Things are good.” His voice is full of disapproval. “You like your house.here will put him behind. Dana Bear.” I say with him. “It’s great. “I love you too. Now I just need to get out of here.” I sigh and hang up the phone. more your style. “I know. Dad. Dana. Well.

I want him to be confused as to whether he has something to do with that. I throw my long legs over the side of the bed. “That way I can be here on official business. and I hope he sees the disbelief in my face. “Can you check a few pictures for me?” His head tilts a little. This is…unexpectedly perfect.” I look at him closely. “Is that it?” “That’s it. but it makes me immediately dizzy. I still don’t believe him. preparing to have a little fun with him. “So. He makes his way the side of my bed. “Better. “How is Dana today?” He looks at me longer than he has to. My guess is he’s pretty good at reading people. you drove all the way to the hospital so I could point out someone in a picture?” I’m suddenly glad it’s taking Leann forever to get us coffee. Who gets a tattoo on their neck? I pick out the man I saw the night before easily.” His eyes haven’t moved from mine. from pathetic patient to young single woman. Something good needs to come from this mess. ready to be gone. I don’t believe him.” He nods. Seriously. . “It’s close to work.” “So you don’t want to be here on unofficial business?” I smile at him like I want him to be here on unofficial business. and I can feel myself switching modes. I’m amazed he has access to so many. All the guys have neck tattoos.Is This a Date or Are You Just Being Nice? Two knocks on my hospital door and Craig enters. He laughs a little and pulls out a few sheets of paper with photos.

and the fun kind of nerves settle in. and he leaves his leg there. I do know I have butterflies in my .” I’m imagining his muscular arms around me. Craig sits next to me. doing everything from rock climbing to snowmachining. horrible person for thinking this? He said his marriage was rough. After all that work to get to standing. I’m in new territory here.” I smile. but doesn’t move away from me. He’s solid.” Another smile creeps across my face. his grasp is firm and his hands are perfectly warm.” “Okay. “I’ll wait for her with you. “Careful there. I think. I can’t be too far off—he’s definitely into me. I slowly sit on the edge of my bed. Driving off the road and ending up in the ditch might have some perks. maybe I’ll see you again sometime when I’m not all busted up. The ones that make me wonder—is he into me? Is he not? Can I touch him? Talking with Craig is easy. Solid enough to make my stomach flutter like a kid. I reach out my other hand and use his shoulder to pull myself to standing. testing his reaction. practically burning a hole through my pants. “Leann. but I really should run.” He stands up. and they hardly waver from mine as we talk. Imagining can’t hurt anything. Is he totally off limits? Or do I just go with whatever he’s into? And am I a horrible. His blue eyes are unreal. He’s not wearing his ring… We’ve been totally flirting for the past few minutes. “Well.“Whoa.” Only now I wish I wouldn’t have taken a ride from her because maybe he’d take me home. It’s okay as long as I don’t make the first move. Just close enough that his leg rests against mine again. “How are you getting back home?” he asks. A really good first date.” Craig catches my arm. His knee bumps slightly into mine. Practically over. “I don’t want to go. I learn he grew up in Alaska and is just as athletic as I imagined him to be. Now I hope Leann gets lost on her way back to my room. He takes a small step closer.” “Thanks. Our conversation feels like a first date.

I scoot closer. kissing me softly. “Are you sure you’ll be all right?” . I don’t even remember what I said to elicit this response because he’s looking at me more intently now. but totally worth it.” He shakes his head. we’re farther away again. his voice lowered. tilting my head to the side and leaning toward him. leaving my head spinning. The moment I tilt my face. And really good. “I’m sorry. “Yeah. “About what?” I smile. he doesn’t hesitate in covering my mouth with his. just slightly. The strength and sureness of him is overwhelming. I’m not in high school anymore. This is definitely not like kissing a college boy. and wrapping his large hand around the back of my neck to keep us together. Single kisses aren’t supposed to float through your body that way. his abs… “I should go. “I’m feeling conflicted. I’m only sort of sitting on the bed. He pulls back just far enough for our eyes to catch. sliding his tongue against mine.” His eyes search mine. smiling again. and I don’t want to miss it. Not in college. “You. and then bends lower. “That was great. Instead of letting him move away. He breaks apart suddenly. My eyes scan over his chest.” I raise an eyebrow. and as he straightens up. I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort. Grownup. We’re both out of breath and trying not to show it. That was fast.stomach again—something that hasn’t happened to me in a long time. I nod and carefully lean back. in anticipation.” My side aches.” He’s still looking at me and his feet haven’t moved. This is adult.” He reaches down and rests his hands on my face. maybe. “I don’t know what that was. Wow. We’re still close—still hovering like magnets trying to pull away from each other.” he says quietly.

I’ll be seeing you.” “Wow. Unfortunately. turns and walks through the door with a quick nod her direction. “Well.” I say. “About the case. and he immediately backs up.” I take a long drink of my coffee.” Leann steps in. Her long blond hair is a frizzy mess around her freckly face and her eyes are full of questions. I’m not sure how well I do because I can’t seem to catch my breath. I’m good.” “I look forward to it.“Leann will be here any minute.” “I know. . through the snow to his car.” She sighs. in the middle of the night.” He clears his throat. She runs to where I’m sitting.” I’m doing my best to look relaxed. as if that kiss wasn’t one of the best of my life. high on both Percocet and my small victory over Sexy Cop. “Who was that?” Leann’s eyes are wide as she glances back at the closing door. immediately placing my vanilla mocha in my hands. “is the man who pulled me from my car and carried me up a steep incline. I wonder when I’ll get to see him again. “Some people have all the luck. “That. Apparently.

and toss it into my apartment behind the kitchen on my way to the door. This is how the weekend starts. His heart pounds so hard. I make a lot more money selling beer and food.” Brock rents one of my small cabins almost every weekend. He dips his head lower and slides the nine-millimeter out of his shoulder holster.” He smiles wide. Owner of one of the snowmachine shops in town. he— The sound of snowmachines pulling into the “parking lot” of the lodge drags me from the story. He’s a regular. This isn’t why he joined the force in a small town. No lodge. and didn’t need the money. legs already aching from his crouched position as he walks slowly toward the gate. “Filled up the cabin. Alone. “Brock!” I flip my laptop shut. Definitely a guy that I need to keep happy. I’d live out here alone. He grasped the gun over and over as his palms began to sweat.JASON Alone. Just as he rounded the front entrance. But the girl was inside. He joined the force in his hometown to make sure he was never in this position. “Absolutely. Definitely someone I need to keep happy. Yes. “How are you this weekend?” “Jason. If I hadn’t had Justine. “Want me to start up a few pizzas for you?” I try to let go of the story I’m writing so I can focus on the job. “Jason?” Brock calls. and he didn’t have time to wait for backup. and I know there will be no more time for writing until they all go away. When he fills it up. he’s sure he’ll drop of a heart attack any second. Busy.” .

My beard is almost.” I follow Boz’s massive form into the kitchen. It’ll take the rest of today for me to get used to talking to people again. Every weekend. “Yep. but not quite.” “Good for ya.” I glance over my shoulder as I step into the walk-in freezer for a pizza crust. “In lodge-owner mode yet?” Boz’s deep laugh fills the room. Happens every weekend. “Always takes you a while. “You spend too much damn time up here alone—especially with that little sister of yours gone. He makes a good point.Brock walks out just as Boz walks in.” Boz chuckles again as he starts doing food prep—chopping veggies and grating cheese. “What you do is legal. . as long as Boz’s curly red hair. The two to three days of solitude I get each week really turn me into a recluse. Don’t forget you love it. You’re supposed to have more friends.” Boz slugs my shoulder. it takes me a bit.” “You’re one to talk.

Or more likely because I give him a discount when he comes up to the lodge with his asshole cop friends. Like we’re pals or something because he married my cousin. I spin around and flip through Boz’s scrawl again as I balance the phone and the spatula in one hand. but I can’t help but wonder if this is yet another “Craig girl. knowing he’s come up with some lame ass scheme that I’ll need to get out of. It’s the weekend. I don’t think. I can tell already. “The Justine thing. cous!” Craig says the moment I answer my phone. man. and how many are regular. Self-righteous ass-hat. Shit.” Sucks because after all the marriage counseling a year or so ago.This Doesn’t Sound as Much Like a Solution as it Does a Problem “Hey.” The pause is long. when he’s married to my cousin. he thinks is the best idea in the world. I thought he’d left that behind him. “Which problem is that?” I cringe as I ask. “I’m kinda busy. .” I flip burgers while Boz runs tables. Surely he wouldn’t be stupid enough to bring a girl he likes up here. She’s on her way to me right now. “I have a witness in a case.” He sounds so damn serious.” “Justine thing?” I sigh as I reach for the cheese and try to remember how many are cheeseburgers. but I don’t think she’s safe.” Whatever he’s about to propose. What can I do for you?” “I’ve solved your problem. “Hey. This place without Justine waitressing is a nightmare. Craig. Did that need a response? “Oh-kay?” “The guy got out on bail and then showed up at her work. Or maybe I just think they’re assholes because they run with Craig. He always talks to me like this.

“Just for a little while?” “Couple weeks. but she seems to be healing up fast. Not tomorrow. and we’ll need her up here for Grand Jury and the trial and all that anyway. the least I can do is keep an eye on him for my cousin. Craig.” He makes this sound like the most reasonable thing in the world when all I can think is that I don’t want to share my quiet weekdays with anyone but Boz. but at the same time I do need the help. Jase!” And he hangs up. and it won’t be for long. which we will. “Oh. She just walked in the door. you’ve got all that cop training that’ll help keep her safe if needed. but I hold my tongue. And the real kind.” You’re a total douche. “Maybe just a teeny bit longer. Not that Taylor will do anything about it.” I start sliding burgers off the grill and onto buns. “I thought she could stay up there and help out on the weekends. “No. I gotta run. and two don’t. Not American football. you know? I don’t think she wants to go home to St. But thanks. and just when I’m about to say something else… “Thanks. Fuck.“What does this have to do with Justine?” Five burgers need cheese. tops. Louis or wherever she’s from. because he’s a total douche. because she never does. is what I want to say. and if this is a girl that Craig likes.” “I don’t know…” No! is what I want to scream.” There’s a pause. “Jason. I need to think about this. Craig. Just until we can pick up this guy for violating bail conditions. She was in a nasty car wreck. who occasionally comes over to watch football. . We’ll see you sometime tomorrow?” He mumbles something to someone in the room with him. okay?” I barely save the last two burgers from being burnt. “No. Taylor.

” I almost choke on the last words because he was so damn relaxed. “Thanks. really good. feeling a little more confident. He knows me. legs swinging. trying to shake off the panicky feeling that followed me on the drive from work. Workman was just sitting in the bed of his truck?” Craig says as he starts typing into his computer.DANA There is an Upside to Having a Stalker. Where I work.” He sighs. no. “He was parked right behind me. and he Reminds me a Bit of 007 Craig’s office is a glorified cubicle with pictures of guys with guns and dead animals and snowmobiles. And he . snowmachines tacked on the walls. Mr. and a little less shaky over Matthew showing up in the parking garage at my work. it’s been really.” “Yeah. “Just a sec.” Craig whispers over his phone as I step into his office. I nod and glance around. My hands clutch together. but it’ll have to wait until I’m off shift. “Well. still a bit shaky after my run-in. and was sitting there grinning.” A shiver runs through me again. still on the opposite side of his desk. “I’d love a repeat of the hospital. I didn’t even see him until I was in my car. Who I am.” he says before he hangs up and grins at me in a way that I definitely like. He even parked behind me. “So. and in a way that makes me smile back because even though we’ve only talked on the phone since the kiss at the hospital. Jase. “I’m going to get all this down so the DA can add it to the file. Like he could do anything.” I raise a brow as I sit down. In my rental car.

or followed me?” I ask. because spending most of college with one boy didn’t turn out all that well. my house is quiet. When we step inside. Same car. meaning he’ll be staying at my house. Leann is gone . A construction mess. “I swear I’m not trying to sneak myself into your house. Perfect. “You did good by coming here. He does a drive around the block before parking in front of my house. and the way his thumb traces my palm sends goose bumps up my arm. This’ll all help. One kiss and a few flirtatious phone calls isn’t exactly…well. anything. okay?” “Okay. Craig’s letting me make the next move. So. “We can ride together. it’s feeling pretty good. “Hey. but right now with Craig’s broad shoulders as my protection. Keeping his eyes on his computer screen. and the furniture is all pushed against one side of the living room for the flooring guys.” I try to sound as relaxed as possible. wondering how close we are. “I’m off in fifteen.” I soak up the warmth of his hand. His hand rests on his gun. and he looks around carefully as I lead him inside. or different car. his mouth quirks into another crooked smile. but I think it would be smart if I went home with you. I wasn’t looking. I don’t normally get off on being the damsel-in-distress girl. but I don’t think you should go home alone. and I have some lost play time to make up for.could have.” A corner of his mouth pulls up.” He cocks a brow before turning back to his computer.” He pauses for a moment and grasps my hand across his desk.” “With me. I’ve made up my mind. meaning I’ll probably send him home. “I guess that’s up to you. The kitchen is a mess from renovations.

and I want to know how he’s going to feel against me. Fun. One obstacle down. and his neck and his shoulders. “Only been a few weeks. Despite a few minor fumblings. But this is what my adventure year off is supposed to be about. in me… Nerves start dancing in my gut as I reach my arms around his neck and pull us together because I’m normally more careful than this.” But he’s standing too close to me when he asks. in my car. right?” he asks as we pause. Never gone all the way with someone I barely knew. We stumble into my bedroom while my lips keep finding his. he feels too far away. I’ve already made this decision. The knot that’s been at the pit of my stomach since we left his work is lower. “Sore. by agreeing to the same thing. on me. “How’s your side?” He kisses down my neck and slides his hands under my shirt. and we’re just here. “You have a pillow or something? I can crash out here. right?” “Right. Slower. I’m done for. Maybe there are none. because I’m not thinking straight right now. alone together. and my hands find his hard sides. .” “You’ll have to tell me if I hurt you.like I knew she would be. Strength. Independence. I’m not sure what the other obstacles are—or if there are any. right? By asking him to drive with me.” Holy shit I’ve never gone this fast. “We’re doing this. we’re naked by the time we hit the bed. all I can think about is needing his lips on mine. I can’t answer him. “Definitely. And he sort of made the decision too.” I gasp as his hands unclasp my bra. We stand facing one another in the living room—maybe a foot between us. But as soon as his lips find mine.” No asking or being careful. and he presses his hips against my hips. Even though I can his breath touches my face.

It’s not just sex. . “Now stay on your side of the bed.” Again. but I roll over to my side of the bed so I can sleep because I don’t like sharing. Better than I thought it would be. and down my hip. A bit of toe-curling. hours later.” I whisper. It’s everything. under my breasts. I need my space. and long enough to know I want to do this again. He explores every part of my body. which means I explore every delicious part of his. amazingness. His fingertips slide up my side. It hits me again what I’ve just done. across my abs and back. can’t-be-quiet. and I thought he would be incredible. “Anything you want. I can’t very well ask him to leave when we’re done. and I don’t know if I should be shocked or proud of myself for letting go and jumping in.” He chuckles quietly before kissing my shoulder. We can’t get enough of each other. Not for too long. That sounds pretty perfect. and he just keeps going. Just long enough for me to relax. “Thanks.

“if you were to go up there. but his excitement is contagious. His stubble from the day before sends tingles down my spine.” His warm breath slides across my shoulders and then his lips start to make their way back toward my mouth. “His little sister and weird neighbor help him out a bit. “Anyway.” “Okay. and there were no odd phone calls.Unexpected Offers We wake early.” He leans in toward me and kisses me softly on the neck. . a nice guy who runs a lodge where I go almost every week for snowmachining. The place isn’t great. and I’m once again eating up his confidence. maybe get a little more alone time with you. A twinge of guilt slides in. but I know his sister was dragged back to Juneau by their parents. but he did spend the night. “Yeah. You know. we might get a little more of this. teasing me by keeping himself out of reach but our faces close. and then my cheek and under my ear. and I wonder how he was able to stay here last night.” He looks straight at me. “But. His arms push him up. “And you’d still be making money.” I have no idea where this is going. I might be able to see you a bit.” he says between kisses. “You know I could probably just live at the Captain Cook Hotel.” He kisses me deeply as he rolls on top of me. He interrupts my train of thought. Not wasting it on massages I could do for free…” His lips brush across mine. Massages and room service…” I don’t want to sound too interested even though I’m thrilled he’s looking for ways to be with me. “You could. or if the situation with his wife is disintegrated to the point it doesn’t matter. “So I was thinking last night.” “Oh yeah?” I smile. but you’d definitely be safe out there and… Well. I have a good friend. This leaves him in need of help and a room to spare. He continues kissing down my neck.

I’m not an idiot.” It feels like the perfect solution. I’ll be out of town and still within occasional reach of Craig.“Okay. I guess it would be nice to be out of town for a while anyway. . I’m not ready to let him go though. snowmachine lodge. and ready to do anything he asks. I also won’t have to go home. “Yeah. whatever is happening between us is not a permanent thing. and it’s better for it. I can do that. not after last night.” I’m breathless.

two-story house surrounded by run-down smaller buildings that the owner probably tries to pass off as “cozy cabins. It’s like a very large. obviously excited to be here. and maybe just as crazy as this situation. It should be burned to the ground so someone could start over.” “Okay. Craig leans over and talks quietly. My heart starts pounding—what have I gotten into? Craig’s friends yell something to him and then take off down the hill on their machines. painted blue.” Craig says as he slaps me gently on the back. The place is a dump.The One Where I Feel Like I’m Living in HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE When He Takes That Girl to That Lodge I take my helmet off and a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach tells me I’ve made a terrible mistake. I look around—not hard to understand why she took off. and not nearly as big as I was thinking.” It’s better than waiting around at home for Matt Workman to show up again.” We’re two hours away from civilization.” That’s easy. This is insane. and we couldn’t even drive the car here. “Yeah. It should definitely not be called a lodge. “It’s not as bad as it looks. Maybe.” Craig turns. This is not at all what I was expecting. one more thing. The main lodge building is old. I wouldn’t bring it up. “Oh. square. “Yeah?” Nothing would surprise me right now. The last ten miles were done on snowmachine. Whoever owns this place is probably as old as the buildings.” He’s smiling. “Don’t worry. “His wife left him sometime last spring. .

He might be a few years older than me. the owner. and I’m starting to think I’m screwed somehow. surprisingly expensive jeans. If I could see him underneath his shaggy. “Jason. I’m surprised. and some old school Asics. and a few years younger than Craig.Jason. Good to see you. he might even be decent looking. is not as old as the buildings. Uneasiness begins pooling in my gut. but I can’t.” Craig shakes his hand. . Just his age has thrown me. He’s got a nice body. man. dark curly hair. but the whole hairy Alaskan man thing is exactly what I expected. and still Jason’s eyes float between the two of us a few too many times to be casual. and ridiculous beard.

this has to go on the list of LAST things I need right now I freeze when I step around the corner from the kitchen into the dining area. I wonder if she has any idea how she’s going to stick out up here.” The moment Craig’s eyes slide back toward her.” I clear my throat and take a glance at the girl again. I know. She’s pale. Wonder if he hooked up with this girl before or after she became a witness? She reaches her hand out. man. I didn’t sign up for anything—they just showed up. way over-dressed for an Alaskan lodge. right?” Craig asks. I’m guessing she likes standing out. And this time he’s bringing me into it. The witness I was telling you about. but I don’t look at her and stare at Craig instead. and throws Craig a smile with a perfect set of teeth. She’s probably never worked a day in her life. smooth skin. “I’m Jason. and it takes everything in me to shake it. tall. My heart starts a frantic rhythm over a girl. rich girl. High cheekbones. I do not need someone this distracting here.JASON Holy Hell. moves almost like a dancer. This is not what I signed up for. Well. “Good to see you. This is definitely not what I need.” “We’re all set up. Manicure. An obviously spoiled. “This is Dana. lithe. and I take it. Asshole. As she shrugs off her coat. “Jason!” Craig smiles his cocky asshole smile. So obvious. .” He reaches for my hand. I check her hands. I know it’s a dick move. “Yeah. silk hair.

“Look. It’s crazy. Actually worked as a campus cop to put myself through Yale.” Craig totally expects me to go along with him. I want to scream at the guy. I’d say she’s a bit thrown being out here as well. “Why don’t you go check it out.” Craig doesn’t even pause. I need someone who can handle that. Her eyes shift to me briefly before she turns and walks upstairs. I almost joined up with the FBI. No more playing around. okay?” Craig rests a hand on her shoulder briefly before letting his arm drop. Maybe she’ll hate it enough to go away. very beautiful girl in a scary situation.” I turn back to Craig. Working. Stupid ass. “She can handle it. and I’ll bring your bags in a sec. Her jaw sets for a moment in a look I recognize from Justine —like she’s about to protest because we all know she’s being dismissed so he can talk to me. “She’s a witness in a big case. He’s got to know I’m not happy about this. If I had to guess. Craig. but he brought a girl up here and my cousin is his wife.” And he knows this is what’ll get me.“So… my stuff?” she asks.” I knew he’d pull this. She’s fine. You know. you know what it’s like out here on the weekends. “The defendant followed her to work. “My sister’s room is up the stairs. “Craig. “Fine. He has to know where she lives. I appreciate that you’re trying to help this very young. Last room on the left.” He shrugs. Playing with the kids. I’m also grateful that you’re willing to help this girl who found herself in a scary situation. “How’s Taylor?” I swear he winces because I don’t even try to keep my voice quiet. The part of this that’s total shit is that he expects me to go along with it because we’re family.” . Instead I ask. but—” “And Jason.

Craig. and I’d choose it again after spending four years around people like Dana. I do not want to hear whatever they have going on. I can’t afford to let her have the room. hairy guys on a stop for cheeseburgers and pizza. “Just need some ice for my ribs. I chose it. “You okay?” I ask.” Craig backs up toward the stairs.” Craig laughs hard. “Though. I pop the top off my beer and turn to face Craig. “I’m going to go up and see how she’s getting settled. you’re in good company. “Well. “Fine. I’d guess you won’t be stuck here for as long. I swear the prick never left middle school. “I graduated from Northwestern. Dana. “But I’m serious. When fifteen minutes go by without Craig coming back down.” Why does Craig insist on bringing this up every chance he gets? I didn’t end up out here. I need a beer. I head to my apartment off the back of the kitchen. I’ve worked at five-star restaurants in downtown St. I think I can handle a rush of smelly. Okay?” His voice is petulant. my good man.” . When Craig’s group leaves again.” “You know I can hear everything you’re saying. looking very pale. It wasn’t easy.” I wave him off and head back toward the kitchen. Jason down here graduated from Yale.” “Yeah. Louis as well as Evanston. “I’m guessing I’ll be seeing you on your days off next week?” “You guess right. my big brother thing kicking in.“How do you know?” I fold my arms. right?” the girl yells down. fine.” I take another swig. more than an hour later. You do that. If she can’t keep up. was accepted to Oxford and ended up in this dump as well!” He clearly thinks the whole thing is hilarious. I wander back into the L-shaped dining area with my laptop to see Dana leaning against the wall near the kitchen. “I just know.

trying to push it off my face. Does she know he’s married? Not your business. Hard. Her chin juts out and she looks me in the eye.” “If you say so.What? Oh. “Help yourself to food. The freezer and commercial fridge are . I’m not eating them. Thanks.” My stomach turns over at the thought of what was in that pause and cheek flush. When I slide them down the counter toward her. “Ummm…” She reaches out but stops. “They’ve been in there for more than a year.” She pulls her shirt down over the peas and bruising. even though I don’t mean to.” she insists. It works better than ice anyway. and then remember I don’t want her here and flip my laptop open. which I assume he is. “Uh. “Sore?” “From the ride in. yeah. “Holy shit.” If Craig’s having sex with her. and…” Her face flushes. not wanting to be involved in whatever Dana has going on. I hit the counter a few times to break them apart and drop them in a Ziploc.” I sit back down. “It’s not nearly as bad as it looks. it makes this all the worse. “And you’re out here?” I’m still staring like an idiot. “Okay. It’s in the fridge in the kitchen and the pantry.” She pulls her shirt up to expose tight abs and bruising that makes my stomach drop. Not only is he cheating on his wife. “Why did he bring you out here if you’re still that bad?” “It’s not that bad. Is that from your car accident?” Even though it obviously is. The car accident he mentioned on the phone. I guess you’re going to have to tell me if there’s something you can’t do yet.” I run a hand over my hair. Jason. “Just from the snowmachine ride in. I reach into the back of the freezer and grab an old bag of peas. but he’s screwing a girl with broken ribs? In MY lodge? Maybe all of this is my problem. I glance over her tall body again. “We’ll go over lodge stuff tomorrow. her brows pull down.

It’s the only place in this dump that doesn’t need to be completely re-done.” I glance back behind me. “So. Well. so stay out of there.” I swear she grinds her teeth before turning around and heading back up the stairs. and Justine’s room. All for a girl who apparently has no issue screwing a married man. and wasn’t here with Craig that I could take more time to be nice. but I did get her peas.behind the ‘Employees Only’ door. . or if she really hurts that bad. “I’ll be fine. The other door is my house. and did give her free range of my kitchen. I wonder if she’s hating it here as much as I think. Dana nods. glad again that we started remodeling in the kitchen. I’m sure if she was someone else. You’re okay?” I glance over the top of my screen. Except for my apartment. She wants to hide in Justine’s purple Twilight room. but doesn’t make a move. that’s fine with me.

What’s going on?” Her voice sounds just as panicked as she had on the messages. and pictures of teen guys everywhere trying to make bedroom eyes with what’s probably airbrushed-on five o’clock shadow. Going home to St. Even though my dad and I just talked. “It’s fine. Six missed calls. There’s one from my brother and one from my boss. The next is from Leann sounding a little frantic. “Dana! I’ve been so worried. I can’t keep from smiling.” I smile at the mention of Craig. old place. Louis just sounds stressful. I don’t know if I can do it. It’s like a Twilight paraphernalia truck threw up in here. The thought of spending more time with Craig is appealing. . The frozen peas are working fast. And being home in Anchorage feels impossible. I’m not in the mood to check them. “The guy I saw on the night of my accident showed up at work. Craig thought I should get out of town. and I relax on the bed that Craig and I just played on to pull out my phone. and how much of a jerk Jason seems to be. Fourteen emails. Leann is nice to care.DANA It… There aren’t words. I’m fine. At least for now. there’s a message from him. Even her comforter matches one of the posters. I work myself back into my most confident self and call her because I can’t let her hear how I have no idea how I’m going to function in this rundown.” I tell her. So no matter how worn down the place is. When I think about staying in this ten-room dump of a lodge for who knows how long. There are Teen V ogue magazines. but there’s nothing else to do. the lodge still feels like my best option. I haven’t talked with her since I texted her and told her to get out of the house. Twenty-five @ mentions on twitter.

“I mean I really.” “Thanks. This is the part of my life that I have together. “It’s good.” Hopefully. It’s okay.“Craig is still around?” Curiosity oozes out of every word.” I’m trying to figure out how to explain. so…” “No. She’s not judging me.” I shake my head. even if he isn’t acting like it. Mom.” she sings. even though uncertainty is starting to taint my happy place. Dana. “He’s married. haven’t you?” There’s both disbelief and awe in her voice. “Yep. I laugh with her. and it seems like he and his wife are totally on the outs. really don’t want an actual relationship.” “Not this time. I don’t think.” I laugh. “But this is just for fun.” I smile smugly. “Sometimes we fall for someone when we don’t expect it. “And he’s still married?” Her voice is curious. “Just be careful. not accusatory. “What?” “You’ve totally slept with that hot guy.” “I’m just sayin…” There’s a hint of tease but also a hint of truth in her voice. “I—” But she doesn’t let me finish. “I know what I’m doing. . “You lucky little…” She laughs.” She pronounces each word carefully. It’s okay. and I know what Leann thinks about him. Way.

“Boz. and then I’ll fill you in on what needs to be done around here. Boz. hopefully to return sometime next week.” He shakes his head like I’m daft or something. still wiping tears. good sex. He’s broad and fat and has a huge reddish beard and is even shaggier than Jason. I bounce back against the counter and look up to the largest. Me. It’s as incredible now as it was then—even though my side is really sore.The Odd Couple Would be the Understatement of the Year It’s early and Craig knocks quietly on my door before coming in to say goodbye in much the same manner that he said goodnight last night and good afternoon the previous day. “Boz?” I ask. Boz. I’m groggy from lack of sleep. painkillers. He takes off. I feel like I’m in the world of hairy mountain men.” Jason explains. “Boz lives next door. It’ll just be…an experience. I’m rubbing my eyes as I walk into the kitchen and run into a soft wall. I grab my glasses and my sweats. “Yes. I laugh because actually the name suits him. He helps out in the kitchen. hairiest man I’ve ever seen.” I look him over again. “You get your coffee. I’m completely disoriented. It’s easier to read my computer screen with glasses anyway. laughing. “You must need coffee. Hard. I drift off again. and little food.” Boz must be over six feet. His mother must hate him. But then I decide I can handle them.” the large hairy wall in front of me says. If you’re not up . “I’m Boz. When I wake up. but I can’t imagine that what I wear or don’t wear will matter in front of scroungy. Jason is sitting on the counter on the opposite side of the kitchen. “Holy shit!” I try to focus on the guy in front of me. hairy Jason. I don’t usually wear either in front of people.

and fifteen or so worn. just in case we weren’t already clear on where I stand with him… “Ready for the tour?” Jason asks.” He glances up briefly. I take in the area again. “Just working.” Well. a living room set up in another corner. the dumpy showers.” Jason isn’t snotty. I get the full tour of the outside. I throw him a look. He moves easily and quickly despite being practically glued to his computer for hours.” He suppresses a smile. “You can hear everything except the six-feet-two-inch sasquatch from next door. This is quite a party. but I’m still not used to being treated like this—especially not by guys. It’s not a big deal. cabins. And then I start to wonder if that hearing thing goes both ways because I don’t think Craig and I were actually quiet. Kitchen in one corner. the laundry. “What’cha doin’?” I ask Jason. but he’s already moving. “On what?” He sighs. and all the other mundane tasks that are part of running his lodge. and I can’t afford for you to have the room unless you can pull your own weight. just slides me a few pieces of pizza when we finish and flops down in front of the TV— . “Ready.” I start to smile. “Working. I don’t say anything.for it. He’s so intent on his computer.” I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit on one of the two tables you can see from the open doorway of the kitchen. Jason is intent on his computer. wooden picnic tables scattered against the wall of windows that look over the snow fields below. You can hear everything down here from the purple Twilight room. I’m waiting for Jason to warm up to me. or talk to me about more than what he needs to say. but there’s a lot of hard work to do. you need to let me know. just matter of fact. Boz laughs. “I heard you yesterday. but he never does.

Well. I guess it shouldn’t matter. but I refuse to play the part of every guy who nagged me through college. and I’m trying to .” He simply continues typing away with ESPN in the background. remember a time in my life when I felt this alone. “What?” “I just don’t want any video games up here. I’m strong. I’m starting to get curious as to what he’s doing. Now what?” I ask. Jason and Boz laugh at something on the TV on the other side of the vast room. It pulls at me. actually. and makes me want to call Craig. I don’t care.” Boz laughs from the couch. “Do you have a Wii?” I’m hoping for a little workout or at least a little distraction. everything’s set up. “No games. that’s all. I’m not exactly sure why he doesn’t like me. I can handle this.” Weird. . I’ll just pick a table.” Jason shrugs. it doesn’t matter. “Whatever you want to do. and pull out my computer again—maybe that’s why Jason’s always on his.computer back on his lap. “Whatever. And I’m going to have to repeat this a lot of times for it to feel true. and I’m not sure that I ever have. “So. At all. His pizza’s surprisingly good. Pizza is deadly to waistlines and hip measurements. There’s nothing else to do. but I’m going to have to watch my carb and fat intake. and I begin to realize how long the weeks are going to feel between Craig visits. I’m tough.

“I didn’t mean right this second.” “Do you think you’ll come home?” he asks. He reads me better than Dad does and then reports back to Dad. I really don’t want to talk to my brother right now. wondering if Dad ever looked at the photos I sent him around Christmas. “So.” His voice sounds more matter-of-fact than concerned. and I’m almost as tall as him.” His voice is impatient.” My voice is cracked from just waking up. We talk sometimes but not a ton. which makes him a little insane. but I don’t care as much how I sound when I’m talking to Keith as I do when I’m talking to Dad. Keith and I look so similar. too. I’m pulling up blankets trying to find my phone. Dana. honestly I’m a little tied up at the moment given that my ribs are making it hard to breathe and move. “I know you didn’t mean right this second. I check the ID. “Dad said he talked to you and you sounded okay. “I’m fine. My ribs are healing up quickly. My phone rings and startles me awake. Best to get it over with. Without all the extra Craig-exertion. I know he’ll keep calling until he gets through.” Overstatement. I’d be doing pretty well.” I have no idea why he’s calling. “Well. Jumping like that still really hurts. Conversations with Keith generally backfire. Keith. and I picture him running his hand over his straight brown hair. “Hey Keith. When I finally get my hand on the thing.The Brother. you’re settled back into your routine now?” . Same pale skin. His high cheekbones give him no end of compliments from the girls. Same stick straight hair and angular face. It’s a pretty crappy arrangement—for me anyway. Unfortunately.

Keith? To give me the same lecture you do every time we talk?” And the one I expect from Dad? In my mind it would seem that Keith should be happy when I’m not living up to the lofty expectations of my family. Might as well get it over with now.” Keith has the same impatient voice as Dad. Sorry. right? Life should be back to normal.” “I thought your roommate.“Not exactly. Leann. “I’m not telling you anything unless you promise not to tell Dad.” “Dana…” He sounds disapproving. which. and I haven’t even said anything yet.” “Is this why you called. Dana. “So.” I wait for him to continue. She manages the Crow’s Nest. “Work’s been crazy. I realize as soon as it comes out of my mouth that it probably wasn’t the thing to say.” “What?” “Promise. is the nicest restaurant in town.” I stop for a moment. “It’s still a waste of your talents and probably won’t get you anywhere. in my opinion. and it’s not that big of a deal. I take care of any and every event planned at that—” “I know what you do. One of them got shot in the head. “I can just tell. was helping you out. She works at that hotel with you.” His attitude about what I’m doing in Alaska generally pisses me off. “No. “He’ll worry too much.” I sigh. “Just before I got run off the road I saw these two guys. The other one . “That hotel is the nicest one in Anchorage.” He exhales. what else is going on? And why did you say ‘not exactly’ when I asked if you were settled back into your routine?” “Who said something else is going on?” I ask.

” Each word is really piercing into my ribs now. they’ll have to do without you. shit.” He breathes out. “You only take time off to ski or golf with Dad. maybe I’ll come up for a short visit.” “Are you kidding me?” I want to strangle him now.” “What? How old are we?” “Believe it or not. Hang out at this lodge you’re hiding out in. Why don’t you just come home? If the state of Alaska doesn’t want to fly you up there to testify. “I have a condition—if you don’t want Dad to know.” I’m kind of pissed now. He’s really annoying that way. Keith. And I’m not at home. “Don’t bother. I’m worried about you way up there.” Lie. “Well. Talk to you later.ran me off the road. . and we had a blast. The directions to my friend’s house were bad. “Look! It wasn’t my fault. The firm always needs a little pro bono work. I took a cruise with friends halfway through college.” I can feel his stare and exasperation over the phone. I mean. and I just happened to be the one—” “Well. Deals between us never end up well. I thought you were at home. Keith. “You have to keep me informed or I will tell Dad. I’m sure I can arrange something.” I go pale for a moment until I remember something. I’m not leaving. Keith. I figured I’d get some peace from them up here.” “Wait. Dana. “Because it wasn’t a mistake! You’ve never even been here. Don’t judge what you don’t know. And as far as I know. I’m staying at this…very cool wilderness lodge for a bit. I’m the only witness. It seemed like a good place to de-stress for a year. Dana.” “Only you. but if I’m too mad he’ll do something to get me back. I was obviously wrong.” he warns. I’ll slide you in. “Why do you have to be so stubborn? Why can’t you admit that going up there was a big mistake?” I’m sure his lanky arms are thrown up in the air in exasperation. “Gah.

“Leave a message. If Keith wants to talk. He never answers his phone. “Later. That’s what voicemail is for. not Clive’s. We’ve had this interchange before. he’ll call you.” I’m done. Just call once in a while and keep me informed.” And he does sound worried. The only time we didn’t is when his best friend broke my heart. No matter how we argue. sister. “Talk to you later. but I’m too pissed to care. . brother.” I push End on my phone with as much force as I can manage. we always end our conversations like that. Keith should have been on my side for that one.changing where you’re sleeping every night is sort of a big deal. Dana. “And if you don’t answer your phone?” I add with the best snotty voice I can manage.” His voice is tired.

and her lodge T-shirt knotted up to show a strip of very toned stomach. And I dislike her because I’ve spent too much time around people her type— smart. and stops at one of the bulletin boards of photos. which isn’t even as good as the thin strip of skin across her back. and really hoping Dana can keep up because I need Boz’s help in the kitchen.” “We’ll earn more in tips. It’s been way too long since I’ve been with someone. shiny hair hanging down at right about breast level. I flip over the sausages and Dana flounces in wearing painted on jeans that ride low on her waist. with his brothers. I dislike her on principle—the Craig issue. I point to her outfit with my spatula. She’ll probably start to give me crap over my beard now. Just Help Me Get Through the Day Without Embarrassing Myself The first group of snowmachiners came in last night. Though if she were. Thursday. That’s all it is. I’m booked up. “You okay?” Dana’s got a smirk that says she knows exactly what distracted me. I cannot be watching her like this unless I want to be half hard all day. Great. Not what I need. trust me.JASON Oh. spoiled. which I can see half of from the kitchen. her very straight. I’m definitely going to need to stay focused today.” She shrugs. I gotta pay attention. I might not have to be dealing with Dana. I spin back to the griddle. At least Justine isn’t here. too. “Shit!” I hiss as my hand gets too close to the griddle. which I don’t. Dana wanders into the almost empty dining area. “That’s Jason there. . “You know this is a family place.” Boz stops behind her. Instead of answering. and probably proud of both of those attributes. and I’m up early to start the weekend. The bruising on her side is almost unnoticeable. Lord.

and she walks through the day like she’s the only contestant on a game show and knows she’s going to win. why does he have the beard?” “I’d imagine it has something to do with the ex-wife. hands on hips while me. because it’s getting the job done.” She shifts her weight.” Only I was completely aware. and maybe. “Morning. “If he can look like that. but I feel like it’s all an act. If she’d just cover up that damn strip of skin. Dammit. and working like it’s what she’s always done. Don’t want her to know I’m glad she’s here. because I didn’t want to stare at her. Probably she’s just smart. The guys ogle her. Justine or me. Boz jumps and walks my way. And stupid about men because any smart girl should be able to see through Craig in a heartbeat.” Boz laughs. “Tomorrow might be a problem if you’re as quiet as you were today. and by Friday night. Almost. . and all four guys at table eight stare at her. Boz!” I shout in an attempt to break up their conversation.” Boz chuckles. And gorgeous. but the women still like her. still looking over the photo wall. Which is fine. and pulls in three times as much money in tips as Boz. Dana stands there. I’m a bit amazed.” she says as she empties out the dishwasher.” “Wow.“Here?” Dana sounds disbelieving. “Yeah. “Right there. and yet she’s here. She cleans tables. She’s good with orders. “I wasn’t aware I was being quiet. Glad she’s here. putting dishes away like she’s lived here her whole life. which I also shouldn’t notice. And I really shouldn’t be listening. great with customers. She’s already a contradiction in my mind because there’s this hard-working side of her. Dana surprises me all damn day. does dishes. but can anybody really just float through life this way? I know she has to be a million miles out of her element here. I don’t need this girl knowing anything about me.

“It’s Craig.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I shake my head. but Taylor’s—” “Then tell Taylor.” I rub my forehead a few times. but no one would have been unaffected. Good. Cut that shit out. “It’s that she seemed to get through the weekend okay. and…” “And your prejudices against anyone who has any resemblance to ‘the kind of people you left school to get away from. and she worked her ass off for you. And is a cookie cutter spoiled girl from the city. “You know you love me. It was an asshole move.“You didn’t know you were being quiet?” Her brows rise. Thank you. Boz.” “Shit.” I drop the dishtowel on the counter and head for my door. “I’m not that bad. Better.” Boz plays with the ends of his beard. “You’re acting like a woman.” Boz flops his feet onto the coffee table in my apartment. and she can be quiet. “Okay. I’ll see you in the morning. She’s right. I don’t need or want to be friendly with either.” He laughs a belly laugh before standing up. Done with the lecture?” . You’re better than that. Jase. Now you sound like my mom. or just deal with her. “Is that a joke?” Irritation flashes through me. Either tell her you want her out. “You did great today. But don’t pull the passive-aggressive BS. “I get that you don’t like Dana. Talk to Dana. “I’ll tone it down. and then I’ll have less reason to be any kind of conflicted about her because she’ll continue to be the girl who is almost definitely having sex with my cousin’s husband. Dana’s silent behind me.” I sigh.’” And he actually uses air quotes. Talk to Craig. I am quiet. “You were a grade-A jerkoff.” I fold my arms. You were almost silent. I’m tired.

” He grins. He’s there a lot. Maybe.” Leave it to Boz. just a contract station. “Those little old ladies love me. but still.” “Don’t those little old ladies get suspicious?” It’s not a real post office. man. but maybe I came across worse than I thought. And I’m still not sure where I stand on the whole Dana thing. . Got another post office run coming up.“Yep. “I’m headed home. “No way.” He stands up and rubs his stomach.

I just nod once. and on Tuesday it’s dead. After Tuesday and Wednesday of near silence. I figure that cleaning up and doing all the “chores” Jason laid out for me last week will keep me busy.” Boz shrugs as if in partial apology for his friend.” He nods once. So what if he doesn’t like me? It doesn’t matter.” “Hey. I don’t want it to matter. clenching my jaw to push back tears. but I realize I’ll finish in a morning. and me sneaking down for bowls of cereal when I’m . But when we’re the only two people in the place. I’m completely unconvinced about Jason. Without meaning to. I must be really tired because it’s not like me to be this emotional. This sucks. Whatever. I’m blinking back tears as I step outside.” I wave back. Be civil. “Jason will loosen up. I feel even more emotional after that simple comment.” I’m not sure where he’s going with this. And did Boz get me that fast? I pride myself on being impossible to read. Weak. Don’t let him get to you. it definitely does. it would be nice if we could at least talk a little. By Monday things are slow. If I’m going to be stuck out here. “Hey. “You did good last weekend.DANA Week. and he grunts in response. Boz waves as I make my way across the yard. “Thanks. Maybe it’s bothered me more than I even let myself think about. Dana. Then what? I tell Jason I’m going to do one last check of the cabins outside.

“Craig’s wife is my cousin.” He turns back to the TV.hungry. Is he hiding? Did he chicken out? Is he lying? And this not talking stuff is bullshit. America’s Next Top Model.” I’m bored. letting his shoulders fall. It’s the second time I’ve gotten a twinge of uncertainty about what I’m doing with Craig. I have a degree from an Ivy League school that has already accepted me for my master’s. that’s why you don’t like me?” I ask.” I insist. “So. The Daily Show. huh?” I ask. I’m hoping to not be here much longer.” It’s like someone shoved a lead ball in my stomach. He knows full well what’s going on. There were a lot of people there like you. and a good friend of mine. Am I picking a fight because I’m bored? “I spent four years of college at Yale. He looks at me as if deciding something and then takes a breath out. I can’t help it. “It does to me. he’s not snotty or snooty. light. I decide that Jason is a puzzle. “You have Project Runway. “So. and I’m pretty sure I’ll never see him again after I leave. When I walk into the living room. I don’t say anything. Again. It shouldn’t matter what Jason thinks. He’s kind of nobody. I’m sort of sick of tiptoeing around here. Well. Jason is catching up on episodes of The Daily Show. Whatever. only it’s way more than a twinge. At least I recognize it. and I want to know why he ditched Oxford for this. It isn’t even that bad of an insult. Does that sound right?” He’s mocking. I did drive a great car until it got nearly totaled. tired.” he says. and I drive a great car. . Smart and spoiled. I worked hard last weekend and it hadn’t made any difference. There are worse things. “Doesn’t it seem a little pointless to watch a show about what’s going on in the rest of the world when you don’t actually live in it?” I try to keep my voice nice. and a little annoyed. “It doesn’t matter. Jason turns back to the TV. I own my house outright. and it’s not like I’m going to go out of my way to stop it. and something called Say Yes to the Dress set to record. I am smart and spoiled. He gave me a once over when I got here and a snap judgment to go with it. “You think you have me all figured out. He’s just stating fact.

but his two days are flying by way too fast. The lodge phone rings and I jump. I don’t want to think about what I should or shouldn’t be doing. Are they together and fine? Well.My heart starts to pound. and to say that sex with him is good would be a ridiculous understatement.com and immerse my brain in trashy celebrity gossip. Not if he’s with me. that’s immediately followed by a flash of anger. Too heavy. Again. but he doesn’t. it’s nothing compared to now. I head over to popsugar. and anyway. He’ll leave for home tonight. glances over at me and disappears into his apartment. And if I thought Jason was grouchy before. I feel a tinge of uncertainty about what I’m doing with Craig. I stare at him for a while over my laptop to see if he’ll notice. He mumbles into the phone. I can’t help myself. This is not Jason’s business. His words make me wonder how truthful Craig was about he and his wife. Craig’s out to see me. they’re not fine. Jason stands up to get it. and Jason hasn’t spoken to me once since Craig arrived. Too much. The problem is that every time he purposefully doesn’t look at me. It’s the perfect antidote to the grungy lodge. I eject my thumb drive and move quietly over to his computer. It’s fine because I avoid him as much as he avoids me. as promised. pushing a lump in my throat. I don’t want anything long-term. What is the guy working on? The sound of snowmachines goes by on the trail below the lodge. but it’s someone else. Heart hammering. I need to lose myself in something inconsequential. Crowds should start coming in to rent cabins tomorrow. Instead he’s typing away frantically on his computer. too? My stomach sinks in. He’s barely with his wife. and I peer out the window wondering if Craig and his group are back. It . Is he with her. Okay. so I sit back. Craig started this.

I look back over my shoulder to Jason’s door and make a split second decision. It never ended well. I try not to leap to attention. The file is called Jason’s Writing. “Are any of these new friends boys?” He chuckles a little. but in a good way. but Jason glances at me as I stand. Wow. He’s protective. It’s Jason. It’s cute. and there’s nothing left to do to prepare for the weekend. “Well. wants to be a writer. I take a few deep breaths as I try to stop the shaking in my hands from almost being caught. I want to hear how he is with his little sister. My brother used to set me up with his friends. looking snowy. My midweek is pretty nice. “I don’t care how nice he seems. That was close. The timing is right for Craig. “I’m not that old.looks like he’s writing something. “Ohhh. When I ask I want the answer to be a definite ‘no’…” I smile now. I’m wondering if I should open it and read. I slide in my thumb drive in his computer and save the parent file to whatever document he has on screen. Jason is a writer. or if I want to or if I care aside from being nosy when I hear a group drive up and stop. I keep staring at my computer and slide the drive into the USB port. I feel another pang of guilt but brush it aside as Craig comes in the door. all sixteen-year-old boys are after the same thing… What do you mean how do I know? I was one.” I can hear a smile in his voice. I don’t want to hear about boys…. I’m guessing he’s a lot like Keith—over-protective and bossy. I’m wandering back down the stairs when I hear Jason’s voice.” He laughs. and now I haven’t heard from you in a while so I was worried.” I immediately sit down on the steps. . really sexy. I don’t care if I asked. Friday morning.” He pauses. Hmm. Craig’s gone.” I suddenly feel bad for intruding and head quietly back to the room I spend way too much time in. or more likely. you called me a lot the first week you were there. With my brief interactions with Jason. “Justine. flushed and really. I make it back to my seat just as he walks out of his apartment. “Stay away from him. and then frowns.

You were way up near the top of your class. I walk and stand looking out the window near the corner table. “My ribs. My ribs hurt. Dana. It has the best view. “I’m at a Lodge near Mt. “I’m helping out a friend while I heal up. “Still?” I can’t lie to my dad. at least not completely. Maybe. but doesn’t feel like enough. he called my work.” Crap. Dad. I know I want it to sound like I’m great.” I think about how much work I do out here.” Instead I’m washing sheets.” His tone is going down. Dad. They arrested Workman again.” He doesn’t sound mad or disapproving or anything yet. “Because you took a leave of absence from work. “That sounds an awful lot like goofing off. But when would I see Craig? He’s here on his days off. McKinley for a bit. It’s something. scrubbing bathrooms and waiting tables.” I don’t know how my voice sounds. and I don’t want to think about where he goes home to after work. and the farthest table from the kitchen. relaxed. so I don’t have to worry about him showing up at my house anymore. “It’s just for a little while.” “Trust me. Dad. where Jason spends a lot of time. It’s hard for me to do all the sitting and planning that I do at the hotel. It’s not. “Dana. and things are fine. And then I realize that maybe I could go home. But I’m still a little shaky from the call from the police station this morning.” I say.Because Apparently Sometimes We Need to be Taken Down a Notch – Even if We’re Already Pretty Low “Hey.” There’s a . “Something’s up. you could be doing so much right now. It’s becoming my spot.” “Helping out a friend.” I try to put a smile on my face. “Why do you say that?” I try to put on my best ‘nothing’s happening’ voice.

“Exactly!” “I’ll be back on track soon. does this have anything to do with a guy? This whole lodge thing?” “No. Sympathy from someone who doesn’t like me sort of sucks. Dad.” He’s trying to agree with me. yeah. Craig. Dana Bear.” I think about hairy Jason and want to laugh. “Your brother is really making good strides at the firm. He usually is.” His voice is softer now. set the phone on the table. It’s just as much my fault as it is his. “Can I have a private conversation?” I stare.” How can he not remember this? Or maybe since it’s a five and not a one.” Why would he care anyway? “Your dad?” His voice is quiet. “I was number five. Keith is very driven. I jerk around to face him. You know I don’t like you so far away. I just don’t really see you on the phone much and—” “What?” I snap back. too.shuffle of papers. So much for my theory of him not noticing me at the far table. and slump down on the bench.” Does he add that to make conversation? Or to put the pressure on? “I know. I’m not sure. “Well. “Sorry. “Great. “Definitely not. “I know.” “Love you. and I know our conversation is about over because he’s at work.” “Love you. “You okay?” Jason asks behind me. because I let him do it. you take care of yourself.” I shake my head. I hit end. Oh wait.” “Wait. it’s not important. What is he implying? Is he implying something? .” “You need to be.” I want to cry. My dad agreeing with me is like him pushing me in the direction he thinks I’m headed with the subtlety of a bulldozer. Maybe it could be a little bit about a guy.

Instead I realize that I hear people coming in the front door downstairs. . put on my best smile. He turns and heads into the kitchen. I check myself over in the mirror. I need a kickboxing class right now or something I can destroy.“Nothing.” His voice is still quiet. and head back down. Sorry I asked. Crap. I grab my computer and head back to the land of the Twilight bedroom.

It’s exciting again to see him. and I definitely don’t want to come across as too needy. Just me telling my story so the prosecutor can file official charges or something.” He walks too close and smiles again. “I’ll be up again soon. “You okay?” Craig lightly touches my lower back as he holds open the door. It’s even more exciting because I have to play cool and can’t touch him while we’re here.” I lean against my rental car.” . but okay. “Is that so?” “You look so damn good. I scan the hallway for Craig. only it seems like nothing’s happening between us today.” So nice to see him. Maybe I’ll leave the friends at home this time. and I Don’t Like Being Followed I step out of the grand jury room. trying to play cool. A lot can be accomplished with ten minutes in a car. All I can think about now is how I still have a two-hour drive. No defendant or his family today.” he says.” He runs a hand down my side. Long drive ahead of me. and I think you’re exactly what I need. “Yeah. “but I can at least walk you out. but maybe I don’t understand his job. He grins as our eyes catch. shaken. and a lot of people are coming and going. It’s near lunch. Life here has been crazy. I’m still not sure how all this works. and then either Jason or Boz is going to have to come out to the parking lot so I can ride behind one of them to get back.” I shrug. “Definitely. “Wish I had some time.I’m Not James Bond.” He sighs as he faces me and then glances around the parking lot. and you and I can just hang at the lodge for a day or two. when I’m actually a little disappointed. “I’m in the middle of work. “Guess that means I’ll be seeing you.

beautiful. obviously not taking me seriously. but never lagging. Intense. but I think I’m being followed. and I need to get out of here before I say or do something that makes me seem pathetic. and way too brief. and the car was closer on my tail. but I’m mad at myself for not looking more carefully when I was in Palmer. but they aren’t close enough. right? “What do you mean?” He sighs. I take the right turn in Wasilla that leads out of town. “Gotta run. “Craig? It’s Dana. I pull out my phone and call Craig.Just as he starts to move away. Craig moves away. Finally. The snow is coming down hard now. “Yes. Were they behind me before? I’m not sure. It’s keeping a distance. It’s odd. making my knees weak enough for me to lean against my car. I take a pinch of his jacket. and I grasp the steering wheel more tightly. I drive through Wasilla and out the other side. and this reaction is the exact thing I was trying to avoid by not asking him for a few extra minutes back at the courthouse. As I drive. I try to see who’s driving. and in seconds he’s spun around.” “I’m at work. thank you. his mouth on mine. and still following.” His voice is clipped.” That’s kind of a big deal. I keep my eye on the car. The drive back will be interesting. the small trickles of snow from this morning have turned into a real snowstorm. . I notice a small blue car pull in behind me as I’m leaving Palmer.” His lips tease my neck as he speaks. Even if they were closer. More than thirty minutes. but expect it to turn off at any moment. I’m not sure if I’d be able to see. I’m aware of this. The blue car follows. warm. I drive past Big Lake and past the Big Lake cutoff and the car is still on my tail. but not too strange since there aren’t that many main roads up here. I’m pretty sure there’s only one person in the car.

” Now I’m starting to get mad. it’s just a little scary that’s all. I’m past Big Lake and this same car has been behind me since Palmer. . and call Jason. doesn’t he? I don’t want to be feeling this scratching in my chest over how he’s not doing anything right now. give me a call. I take a few deep breaths and relax. Still there. Pull over and get some gas. a little over an hour from Palmer. but keep driving. and he’s shrugging me off. we have the guy in custody.” I hang up.” How can he not be taking this seriously? He’s the one who stayed at my house in Anchorage. and I’m suddenly stopped? That would mean they’ve caught me. what feels like only a few feet off my back bumper. heart racing. “Well. and I realize how tense I’ve been.“I mean. just a little ways left. The problem with my iPhone is the inability to slam it shut. I have to go. I drop my container on the floor. I get close to the Talkeetna cutoff.” “So?” “So. When I pick up my lip balm and check my mirror. I’m only a few miles from the Petersville Road cutoff now. I almost pull over. I’m at work. I figured he’d be making calls for me or doing something. I know. What am I supposed to do if they’re following me. the car is there again. “Yes. Now I’m being followed. There’s a small gas station here. It’s just that—” “Dana. If they stop with you and then start following you again. I keep checking my mirror. and all that happened was the guy showed up at my work. I think I’m being followed. letting my shoulders fall. like Craig suggested. The blue car pulls over and into the gas pumps. He has to have some trooper friends way out here.

It’s probably nothing.” Its Dana. . Relief fills him as he checks into the hotel under a false name.JASON Mixed. almost sure of it. “Jason. Craig? And then I have the thought that maybe Dana is the kind to bring drama. Let’s plan for the worst. half thinking about what comes next between the couple in my story. “Dana. The second he steps inside the room. “Denali Lodge. and now it’s behind me again.” My heart’s hammering as I slide on my holster. she sounds honestly panicked. take a deep breath. That’s a lot of turns!” It takes her a moment to catch her breath again. I’m thirty miles off the main road and have no idea where she is. I’m immediately tense because I don’t think she’s the type to bring drama for the fun of it. Mixed. but this car has been behind me since Palmer. but at least we’ll be prepared. I’m taking a breath with her. I’m sure of it. Of course. He’s safe. and I thought I was okay. and I don’t know what to do!” “Dana. “And then the car pulled off. “Now. This is Jason. The girl is safe. Well. “Have you called the troopers?” I don’t know what on earth she thinks I can do to help her. He didn’t seem worried. right? But maybe somebody is following you. take another deep breath. I’m being followed.” Without meaning to. her arms are around him— The damn phone. and Craig already knows this. okay?” I jog into the entry and start gearing up. What the hell. it could be nothing. “I talked to Craig. On top of that.” I glance back over the last few words. and I’m about to learn. half gasping for air on the line. Mixed.

More determined.” No way it’s a coincidence. You know where to go?” “Yes. and just let your car run into the snow bank at the end. You’re okay. and I know she’s got to be calm to navigate the icy road to the parking lot where we switch to snowmachine. Though—there are a quite a few cabins out here. “Jason? The car followed me on the turnoff. why are they still? Why haven’t they done something yet? This makes me anxious on a million different levels because I don’t know what they want from her. and where Boz dropped you off this morning.” She gasps. This also means that whoever is following her will know where she’s at.“Okay. It might just be a coincidence. Speed across the parking lot. “Okay.” “Dana. She lets out another long breath. But if someone is following her. because Dana isn’t going to have time to suit up at the end. “Okay. and do it fast. Then put another coat on over it. She doesn’t automatically have to be at the lodge. You get out of the car and come straight to me. But they’d come here first. take another deep breath.” .” She sounds a little better. But I don’t even know if this is going to be a big deal. do you understand?” “Yes. but they have to be pretty determined to still be behind two hours later. “I’m leaving right now to go to the far parking lot. I grab another loaded magazine for my sidearm. Okay?” I do everything I can to keep my voice quiet and calm. “You need to drive carefully but quickly. We can go back out for your stuff later. It’s where you had your car last time.” “You drive to the end. Leave everything in your car but your keys. but I’m going to have to get off the phone if there’s any chance of me being at the end of the parking lot when she gets there. Probably she just needed someone to believe her.” Her voice is still shaking. and slide it in my coat. I will be waiting at the end of the parking lot. We’re going to have to time this well. I’m going to stay on the machine so we can take off quickly.

and a small beater of a blue Subaru is on her tail. and runs for me.” “See you in a few. and follow the plan. but that’s it. I will be there.“You need to carefully put the phone down. that was one thing.” This is insane. the thrill of moving at a hundred miles per hour over the snow is exhilarating. I should have stopped a hair closer. Now I have to haul ass so I can keep my promise. No way that’s a coincidence either.” I hang up. so someone else is following her out here. and I stand up letting my machine take the brunt of the bumps as I fly through them. Fuck. . I grab the throttle to the handle and take off. I want so bad to meet her at her car. grab my helmet and pull my machine to a start. It takes everything in me to stay where I am. and rest my hand on my gun. Can you see how many people are in the car?” I can’t believe I didn’t think of that sooner. Meet you at the end. Mid-week is dead. “Okay. Normally. She rams the front of her car into the snow bank. There are a few scattered trailers in the middle of the lot here. I see her car just reaching the far end. jumps out. pay attention to your driving. The moment I hit the first clearing. the moment her car hits the parking lot. but I’ve never driven it this fast.” “Dana. Get out with my keys and run. But he’s in jail. Just like I told her to. hoping no one else is out here today. I’ll get us back to the lodge. When Craig said the guy followed her to work. she hits the gas. As I come down the final hill to the parking lot. “Just one. There are narrow trails through the wooded areas. I unzip both coats I’m wearing. I’ve driven this trail so many times I can’t keep count. but today it isn’t fast enough. Get out of the car and run toward me. but that would just slow us down.

we lose our advantage of getting out of here quick. “Thanks. Dana cries against me for a few moments before I realize we’re not even friends. “That’s my fiancé you’re fucking with .” Dana glances over her shoulder as she jumps onto the back of my machine. I let go of the gun and grab the throttle as Dana’s arms grasp me around the waist. She’s almost as tall as me. but the second I step off this machine. and she’s shivering all over—probably as much from fear as cold. Dana buries her face in my back. her teeth chatter. and tightens her arms around me.” I’d be freezing. “You better run. The silence after the screaming and noise of the machine feels empty. I need to get far enough away that if she is armed. Please don’t let them have a gun… A skinny bleach blonde woman scrambles out of her car. Part of my big-brother thing must be kicking in again because I step toward her and pull her into my chest. but we speed away. He didn’t do anything wrong. “You okay?” I ask as I pull off my helmet. and we’re in this .” I take off both coats. When Dana starts shaking behind me enough that I feel it through two coats.” She looks down. Nobody’s going to miss him. That guy was a loser asshole. and we’re surrounded by trees. nearly running into Dana’s car. running for Dana. We have two kids . “I brought you a coat. The woman’s coming toward us fast. Dana’s in stupid heeled boots and slips a few times. bitch!” the woman yells. Her eyes close briefly as she pulls it on. I can’t support them without him. Dana laughs hysterically mixed with sobs as tears stream down her face. but Dana’s two steps away from me and safely out of reach. and my heart aches a little for what she just went through.” “You must be freezing. you stupid nosy bitch. but still manages to feel like almost nothing in my arms. and hand her the one I had closest to me. knowing it’ll be warmer. I stop. We’re going to starve because of you.The blue car slides sideways. she won’t have a chance of hitting us. “I don’t know. All the reasons I was determined to hate her start to dissolve as she continues to shake.

Didn’t she call you when she got back?” I’m actually way too glad that she didn’t. “Did you or did you not tell me she should be up here for her safety?” “What?” “She was followed. That’s all. “Ready?” She climbs on behind me. We step inside.” He’s quiet. and I’m neither. but instead walk through the kitchen and into my room. It’s just been too long.” Her eyes dart around as she hands my coat back to me. Definitely no. I get a little more pissed. or how good her long legs feel when they squeeze against mine to hold on. And definitely not with her. and sends a shock through me. The moment he answers. “She drove all that way just to yell?” Dana pulls away from me. and I have no idea what to say. “I’m glad you called. I start in. And I need to be alone.really weird sort of…intimate situation. My hand brushes hers as I take the coat. The drive back to the lodge takes a lot less time than I’d like. No. her face red and blotchy. asshole. “No.” I say quietly as I drop my arms and brush my palms together. .” I shake my head and hand Dana my helmet. “Thank you again. and I try not to notice how strong her arms feel around my waist. I do not need that to be happening. “I don’t know. Instead of relaxing. and finally call Craig. That could have been a much worse situation. Anything I tell her right now will make her think I like her more than I do. Dana’s here and she’s safe. I open my mouth to say something. or will make me sound like a dad or a big brother.

I shouldn’t be. I’m pretty sure Dana’s not trying to use this look for anything. I don’t usually panic like that. “Maybe you could pass that on? To Dana?” “Are you fucking serious?” He wants me to pass bad news on to his girlfriend when his wife is my family? Instead of waiting for his answer. what?” I snap. and her huge doe-eyes are still watery and staring. “I wasn’t expecting that.” I don’t make eye contact because she has that vulnerable girl thing happening right now that gets me every time. Her long hair hangs down around her slim face.” I decide I need a beer and head to the kitchen. so…” “So. because I think it’s real.” She pulls her sweater more tightly . but I’m also pretty sure that means I’m even more likely to make an ass out of myself in some way. Justine’s pulled I don’t even know how much shit over on me by using that look.” I lean against the counter. “Maybe next time she calls you with a problem. and some crazy bleach-blonde woman was screaming. “I really appreciate it. If Dana’s pissed at Craig then maybe whatever ridiculous thing is between them will go away. realizing there’s nothing he could say that would make me less angry. I snatch a Mississippi Mud from the back of the fridge and pop it open. “I don’t think I’m going to make it out this week. you’ll listen. My cousin deserves better.” I’m pacing in my apartment.“I had to haul ass out to the parking lot. Jason. shit. past the fireplace to the bathroom and then back. A mom scolding.” “No. huh?” I sound like a woman. I hang up.” “Yeah. And this is when I realize Dana’s in the room. “Hey. from my bed. “Thanks for standing up for me. This bites. Well. Now. We’re all lucky she wasn’t packing.

Want some?” I’m being nice again. I need to get away from this girl. “Not going to get that?” I gesture with my beer.around her. her hazel eyes still rimmed with red. “I was about to make a massive plate of nachos. I just…” Damn. and have to find a really nice way of getting Dana home where she belongs because I can’t like someone who has affairs. I’d be sunk living next door to him. She shakes her head. . I can’t be friends with a girl who makes my gut twist when she smiles. That would be good. Dana’s phone rings. “I’d love some. and she stares at it for a moment before tucking it back in her pocket. I need food. Maybe I should go to Boz’s and light up tonight. normally drives BMWs and doesn’t live in this state. which she’s doing right now.” I’m fucked. If I were a pothead. This isn’t good. His weed is legendary. “You were good to call.

then click on one that says – MARCO POLO – complete. I’m in shock that Jason wrote something like this. I want to know how this guy is going to escape. The white. an overwhelming sense of home floods me. After I click out of email I look over my desktop and see a file called Jason’s writing. . and lay on my back in the dark. More like National Treasure but set in Spain. I can’t believe I forgot about that. It’s like a hip Indiana Jones kind of book. I open it and scroll through the contents. but I don’t. Anyway. I’m awake for long enough that I contemplate turning my computer back on. I turn off my computer. rubbing his eyes. The familiar smell of coffee helps me relax as I sit at my favorite table to enjoy the view. Snow falls all night.DANA Rory and the “J” Boys. When I check email after stuffing myself with nachos. it’s midnight. Jason stumbles out of his apartment. thinking about the story. blanketed valley spreads out below and the hills disappear slowly off in the distance. I’m completely lost in the story and before I know it. and instead of feeling alone in this vast wilderness. it was hard getting this file from Jason’s computer so I have to check it out. I need to know if he finds the girl he’d rescued—the one with the crazy red hair. I’m officially in the cabin from the snow globe I had as a kid. I finally have something from the guys working on my house. It’s good. The kitchen should be done in days. I start to read. Craig has taken me over more than I want to admit. In the morning I come downstairs and the sun has turned everything I can see into some magical looking winter wonderland. I shuffle around until I find a comfortable spot for my ribs and go to sleep. I immediately want to get my camera. and actually getting Jason to laugh twice during our conversation last night.

That was my one attempt at dating a bad boy. The snow is deep.” He smiles. “Gets me every time.“Wow. There are no tracks out there. but it’s a good read. There’s a twinge of guilt for stealing it. “When you get on the machine. “Wanna go for a ride?” Suddenly the peaceful landscape doesn’t look so peaceful. think of it like a motorcycle. Riding behind Craig and looking at the snow from inside the lodge is one thing—driving a machine is another. I wonder when the awful used feeling that comes with remembering him will go away. “Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?” He sits across from me and takes another long drink. At the same table. He was a spoiled kid who got good grades and spent all his allowance on trying to play the part of a bad ass. After his first sip he starts to look human again. Dana? Or did my question take you somewhere else?” He’s not annoyed. It’s kind of funny now. “Somewhere else. but then remember that I don’t have permission to be reading it and stop myself. I decided after six years at Northwestern that the most dangerous ones were the boys who looked exactly like what you should bring home to meet the parents. Guess we’re talking and might be something like friends. “Yeah. I’m also curious to see if Jason and I are talking now. so it’s best if we . he really wasn’t that bad. And anyway. Those boys thought they could take whatever they wanted. which means this weekend is going to be insane. I start to tell him how much I love his book. The last time had been a while ago. He must sense my hesitation and sits across from me. his eyes still only half open. If ever. he wasn’t being all that nice at the time. Does this just take your breath away?” I ask. He’s smiling. “You still here. His eyes are still half-closed as he reaches around in a cabinet for a mug.” I smile. That simple realization makes me know how hard it’s been to have him so disapproving.” I answer honestly. especially on a day like today. Guess whatever sort of truce we came to yesterday is still in effect. A pang hits my chest as Clive’s face comes up.

but I’m learning that Jason is someone I can trust—at least I know where I stand with him. Sort of like a motorcycle.” He nods as I take the iPod from him. I raise an eyebrow as I sling my large camera over my shoulder. It’s my creative outlet. and I generally don’t take pictures in front of people I know. This is supposed to be fun. I’ll give you the nice machine. The theme song from The Bourne Identity . I’ll be able to find our way back. I… Okay. and I’m feeling weird about sitting down. “I also have music for you. I can do this. “Okay. Just play around with it.” “Music?” “Yeah. Private. but do anyway. It’ll help.” I shrug. “I didn’t know you were into that. “Don’t worry. “This was supposed to be my wife’s. Okay. and it’s real and feels amazing. “Headphones.” His head tilts to the side. and I’ll start you up. helmet.” “Okay. and then gestures toward me. I have a leg on either side of the snowmachine seat.” He plays with the ends of his beard. Trust me.” I’m still a little uncertain about the snowmachines. I don’t do it much. which I’m learning is a Jason thing.” I’m smiling now.” He reaches into his pocket. The snow’s deep so you’ll have to stand up to turn. “Camera. I think. and you can lead. “What’s that?” He points to my bag. and on the snow. To help you channel your best badass self.” I can do this. He nods once. It’s practically brand new.” Better than sitting around in the lodge for another day of near quiet. right? “Yeah. and I really wish I could hack it all off. but a lot wider.ride while we can.

Even I know from on top of the machine it looks cool. sometime before my accident. “Must be the music. but softer like I’m driving over pillows or clouds. “I’m exhausted. I stand up like Jason said to do and just drive. I give him one back. I take off my helmet. and every time I shift my weight. I decide that the machine feels almost like riding a jet ski. even a little.comes on. and ten feet in deep snow is a long ways to walk. well.. and my thumb squeezes the gas. I start to get a little braver and use my weight to tilt the machine up on its side. turning slightly. The snow is soft and deep and my landing is nothing. Each branch on each tree is weighed down and covered.. and breathing hard inside a . Jason gives me a thumbs-up and even though I feel like a total dork doing it. The snow is gleaming white and sparkling in every direction. Walking in this stuff is no easy task. but the open areas are much wider than the small spots of trees. the machine responds and lifts up on one side or the other. the higher the snow flies and the more exciting it is. The speed is exhilarating—especially now that I’m in control and not riding behind anyone.” He smiles at me appreciatively. I’ve seen no one else. and I grin wider. James Bond is playing in the background now. turns them both off and takes off his helmet. Machine is on. Snow flies out behind me. I go as fast or as slow as I want to. The machine rights itself and stops about ten feet away from where I landed. and I start to get why all these people drive so far to ride for the weekends. It turns faster than I’m expecting. I’m ready. I throw my weight again to tilt the snowmachine and give it some gas. spraying snow out in alternating directions. and I fall off into the snow. Helmet’s on. I start to get up and realize I’m tired and sweating.” He wipes his forehead with the back of his glove. feeling better and more relaxed than I have since. I start swinging the machine back and forth. I grasp the handlebars.” I laugh. I do feel like a badass. The feeling is like nothing I’ve done. Even after thirty minutes or so of riding. Jason’s right. “You’re really good. rocketing me down the hill. Jason stops next to my machine. The farther I lean.

and take a few shots of the snow-covered machines and few of Jason.” “Jason!” “Hey!” Jason waves as they turn off machines. I guess we were. I thought I’d just sit there and get cold.” I agree. “This is great. I wonder who is way out here in the middle of the week. maybe. “You can’t be out in a place like this and not be part of the best side of it. “You have to be tired. “You’ll like these guys. . No one up here calls the mountain Mt. “James and Josh. You two were easy to find. Great.” Josh laughs. McKinley—that’s a President.” “Yeah. this is more of a workout than I guessed. “Yeah. but he’s smiling and exudes happiness. His shaggy beard has chunks of snow in it and his hair is a complete mess from his helmet. The field we’re in looks like it stretches for miles—small pine trees dot the white snow. “How are you guys?” “Great. isn’t it?” “Incredible.” Jason chuckles. It’s clear blue skies and white everywhere I look. “Oh. Well.” “No problem.” He pulls off his backpack and pours us both some coffee from his thermos. and three machines appear over the edge of the hill. “Want a snack?” He starts digging in the millions of pockets on his bright orange coat. and I can’t imagine knowing your way around here as well as Jason seems to.” Jason smiles. but I’m sweating under here. The lodge is the work side.” he says as he points. He is the owner of the lodge. Jason tosses me a Snickers bar.facemask isn’t fun. I hope there’s enough contrast for my pictures to turn out well. “Thanks for this. I lie in the snow on my stomach and take pictures of Denali. I was corrected right away when I first moved up.” I unzip my coat and turn off the music.” I pull out my camera. This is the play side.

and Dana took her place. His dark hair is cut military short. my brothers. I’m the cousin. “And you’re the hot girl everyone’s been talking about. . “What?” I’m confused.” I say. and Jason laughs over and over. “She’s smart. “Everyone who’s been up here since your sister left. how do you like hanging out with the Governor’s kids?” Rory asks.” I nod.” Rory laughs. you definitely are.” Josh laughs. “I’m right here. “So.” I glance between the brothers. And now I’m wondering how I’m going to keep them all straight.” Rory wags his brows.” Josh says.” Only it doesn’t sound like Jason thinks it’s great. I find it funny he apologized since he’s the only one who hasn’t said anything. minus the shaggy beard. Again. I had no idea he had so much good mood in him. too. also kind of my brother. When Jason bothers to laugh. until they showed up. He too looks a lot like Jason—again. I throw him a look in response. He’s shorter than Jason and strong. “Yeah. “Sorry. Well. He laughs.” “Kind of a brother?” I ask. “Who’s talking?” Jason asks. if it brings in the business…” Rory smiles and wags his brows at me. “Hey man.” James glances my way. He’s shaggy like Jason. He has the same laughing eyes though. “Oh no. well. “So. you three are J names. scowling. and that’s Rory.” The guys banter a bit. “Dana. “Might be. “Great.Our tracks are the only two tracks in the snow. this is James and Josh. but his hair is a startling color of red.

I can’t believe the dexterity it takes to ride like this. I don’t need to move much because they’re really good and keep driving toward me. “So are there many more of you?” I ask. It should at least make for some interesting pictures.” I’m curious as to how old they are. He shrugs. red with embarrassment. “You don’t know?” Josh laughs. “Because I like to embarrass Jason. “What?” Jason turns to look at me. . I realize as they begin riding in circles around me. “Why did you say something?” I look at Rory. and is off in a shot. but he’s lived with us since…forever. I like how they are together—friendly and relaxed.” He laughs and punches Jason on the shoulder. action shots. “Never came up.” “Why didn’t you say anything?” I stare at Jason. James and kind of Rory—do I have that right?” “That’s all of us. Justine. “Why don’t you guys ride around? I’d like to take some pictures. taking each other in.” He looks around at his brothers smiling. That’s okay. “Awesome!” Rory throws on his helmet. throwing snow up in all directions that I’ve probably just started some sort of juvenile male game where they all make asses of themselves trying to outdo one another. “Well. You know.” I figure that’s enough to get them riding well. there’s you.Jason’s shaking his head. but I’m sure I wouldn’t remember if I asked. “Rory’s our cousin. they’re spinning their machines around in the deep snow and even on the small screen on the back of my camera I can tell I have some great shots.” Right. We all sit in silence for a few moments. “Our dad is the Governor. Josh. They’re up on one ski.

. I’m a lot more confident now. I’m definitely not feeling as trapped out here as I used to be. I start back toward the lodge and Jason keeps close by me.After twenty minutes of lying in the snow to take pictures. I’m ready to get on the machine. but I like his taste in music. and I not only like Jason. All American Rejects starts to play. and it only takes us a fraction of the time to get back. I put the headphones on again and carefully wrap up my camera. I want to get these on my computer.

because she’s exposed her stomach almost down to her….” She rolls to the side. At least football’s on today. and stretchy pants. I’ve picked up the phone about a million times to call Taylor. and just needs to get this out of his system once in a while. I’m so Screwed. “And how high do your bruises go?” Boz’s concerned face is ridiculous. “How far down do the bruises go?” “Oh. I’m not into it.” Boz says. and I don’t want to know. “You’re ruining the football game. “Come on. and pulls her pants down toward her hip. but we’ll do the same run-around that we always do—Craig’s a great dad. but she definitely won them over with her photos. and that puts me in a shitty position. Holy shit. Jason. and more than halfway through the game without a goal. Also. It takes a great amount of effort to keep my eyes on the screen. I’m not sure if introducing Dana to my brothers was worth the eyebrow wagging and dirty texting that followed. She starts a series of crunches. I have to shift like four times and do some deep breaths to keep everything in place. and it’s worth it for when guilt takes over and he’s home all the time again. his eyes focused on Dana. or she’s pulled them down with her pants. “Shut up. It’s intense enough that I give up trying to do anything with writing this afternoon. I don’t hate Dana the way I want to. I also don’t know if Dana’s talked to Craig since she got followed back from Palmer.” I say.JASON Holy Charlie’s Angels. England and Brazil. Sports bra. . Either she’s not wearing panties. During the break before the final third. Dana steps into the living room wearing…almost nothing. and Boz’s jaw drops open.” I gesture to the TV trying to sound annoyed instead of turned on.

closes his eyes and waves his hands in front of his face. I just. I mean just got him calling it football. And second—you do not want to use Boz’s yoga mat.” I fold my arms. and isn’t offended. “You just don’t.” He sits up straight. letting go of her pants. She backhands Boz on the knee. “But you could still work out here.” I continue.” “I have one you can use. “Let me find my mask of concern… It’s around here somewhere. football. “is there nowhere else you can be right now?” “If you have a yoga mat. “I thought you were worried about me!” She plays it off well.” I hold in my smile. “I am worried about you. “Enough! This is a place of business…” Dana widens her eyes. “And.” She cocks a brow as she shifts her weight to one leg. “But this is the only place with carpet instead of the creaky hardwood floors. trying to ignore her. When he opens his eyes. “It’s just a mat…” “He has sex on that mat. First—” I glare at Dana. “Two things. and I wouldn’t touch the thing with a ten-foot pole. “Boz? You fit on a yoga mat?” “I can show ya if you want. I’ll leave you alone.” I hold my hand up.” Dana starts to wander from the room. “Why not?” she asks.” I’ve heard of Boz’s yoga mat adventures.” “Aahhh!” I yell. which slide back up. “You have corrupted Boz.” . waiting for the shocked response she’s sure to show. though. “Or how far up? Either is okay with me. Dana?” His voice is ridiculously fake.” Boz’s eyebrows wag in a ridiculous show of invitation.” Boz says. stop. “I’ll go for a walk instead. Probably she’s used to it.” Boz looks serious.Dana catches on. and looks around the room to the obvious fact that we’re the only ones here.” “Okay. “Never mind. I don’t mind you interrupting soccer. Dana laughs. “How far down do the bruises go. his face looks just like it did when he “noticed” her bruises.

and probably reading my desperate attempt at a joke way too well. . this makes me feel in control. “Okay. I don’t want to like Dana for a million different reasons. now you’ve cocked the gun and you’re ready to fire. Hinted at coming to pick up her things.” This should help get my head on straight. and me wondering what the hell happened between us that we can’t even try to be friends. “Hook me up. “So.” After a few minutes of picking out a gun for Dana to test out. which resulted in yet another conversation where I had to tell her that nothing here belongs to her.” Teaching Dana to shoot seemed like a good idea until her eyes widened as I pulled out the handguns.” “And why on earth do you feel out of control?” “Maybe more that I got call from my soon to be ex-wife this morning and need to blow something up.“Suit up and come with me. a longer time than I want to admit—even to myself. A wave of something serious passes between us. Louis. but Cass did call this morning. and her getting pissy. “I just…” What was I thinking? “When I feel out of control.” she says. “I have a different idea. I didn’t grow up on that side of St. and told her more than I want to about myself. The thing is. my arms are around her. and right now I’m enjoying standing this close to her way more than I should. and I’m wondering if I should have just let her do her workout in front of the TV instead of coming out here.” And then she smirks at her clever joke. Jase.” I try to make it sound like I’m joking. with our hands outstretched.” I say. “Good. Dana’s staring. as we hold the gun together. the scent of her fills my head. “Uh… I think you have the wrong girl. aiming loosely at the target. I just pull the trigger?” she asks. As I breathe in. So maybe this is just a reaction to not being with a woman in… Well. So far I’ve breathed her in.

and not on the girl next to me so I take my arms back. She hit the corner of the target.” She still hesitates. “Okay. “Just the snow. “Pull the trigger until you meet with some resistance. On top of all that.” But as soon as the gun fires. look forward to the kick-back. and as far as I know. Does that make sense?” “Okay. “Think kick ass thoughts.” I slide my hands up her arms like an idiot.” She slowly gets back into the stance I showed her. keep relaxed. but should keep trying to hate her.” I’m going to feel really stupid for bringing her out here if she shoots me by accident. squinting at the target. “When you look down the top of the gun there’s two small white dots close to you and one at the end. Dana’s a million worlds away from me. okay?” “Okay.” She squeezes the trigger again.” I chuckle. and I can tell by the look on her face that she’s hooked. I’m relaxed and thinking badass thoughts. “That I can do. “You keep going. keeps her arms down when it fires. you want those to line up and your target should be in the middle of the middle dot.I need to focus on the gun and the target. and I’m in no position to start anything with anyone. “Let’s aim for something this time. Look forward to the sound. “Did I hit anything?” she asks. . “Stay relaxed. there is absolutely no way she’s at all interested. “Whoa…” I rest my hands on her upper arms. and squeeze until it goes off. letting her hold the gun on her own. and I’m going to get set up for myself.” She cracks a smile. Which brings me full to circle to the many reasons I should not only not want to be involved. she’s still otherwise occupied. “Check me out!” “That’s pretty good. then slowly let out a breath. lowering them back down. and rest my hands over hers. Think Charlie’s Angels or something.” I smile as I step away. definitely got a Charlie’s Angels thing going on. do you see those?” She nods and then shivers once. and I need to distract myself. she not only flinches but jerks her arms backwards.

laughs. “Why are you here?” She’s looking at me like most people do. After closing my eyes for a moment.” A few college friends and I went through on one of the sessions that the FBI occasionally does where they allow police forces to send people through. At the same time. and drops the empty magazine out.” She laughs. “Don’t accidentally shoot me. I keep my eyes on the target. “Wow. Like I’m just wasting myself. “Maybe I am secretly one of Charlie’s Angels. I snatch my other gun. and do the same. I’m recognizing the look on her face. and ready. I’m not sure if having Dana come with me out here was a good or a bad thing.” She’s something. just like I showed her.” She winks. I drop to one knee. each hit landing somewhere near the center of the target. and off her.” “Maybe I’m just good at everything I do.” “What?” She’s focused on her gun until she finds the right lever. I wanted to keep my options open.I get loaded up. and finds her stance again. continuing to blow shots through the middle of the bull’s eye. and she’s impressed. . “Much better.” “Got it. “You’re more of an Alaskan girl than you thought you were. and blast through the whole magazine.” Though. “I went through the FBI training academy. and then this. I need some serious focus time. “Because I want to be.” Dana’s staring when I finish. It was an incredible experience. “The snowmachines. and slides another magazine in. “Better?” she teases. but was enough to know that I never wanted to be in the FBI. I don’t have health insurance. just like she recognized the look on my face the morning I burned my hand on the stove.” I slide in two magazines and put thirty more rounds into my targets.

” She smiles at me warmly. People start checking in around lunchtime on Friday and others don’t arrive until near midnight. I know she’s just ridden out because she has her helmet in her hand. But awkward. and I wish that I’d spent more time getting ready. Not that it would have helped much next to her. hoping to have fun again this weekend. I get to the bottom of the stairs and a gorgeous woman with the kind of height I’ve always envied comes in through the door. I’m Dana.” “Oh! Dana! I’m Craig’s wife.” I’m in shock. it’s been awkward between us. and I’m looking forward to it. and I forget to breathe. “Hi. Taylor. “He’s unloading bags. It sounds like you’ve been through quite an ordeal. Craig never made it out last week. I hate feeling envy. Hate it. Just Beat the Crap Out of Me. but she looks amazing. It’s the first time since I’ve gotten here that I don’t feel like the prettiest girl in the room. I spend a few extra minutes getting ready today. And . She’s built exactly like me but even taller and where my skin is pale. Numb from the inside. and since the whole being-followed-from-Palmer thing. Not horrible. even though we’ll be busy.DANA Really. No makeup and flawless skin. I’ve realized at this point that Jason doesn’t sleep more than a few hours all weekend and then simply makes up for it during the week. It doesn’t happen to me often. This gorgeous woman is Craig’s wife? I’m speechless. She has huge blue eyes and real blonde hair.” I reach out my hand. hers is tanned and beautiful. He filled me in on the story. And he said he was going to try and sneak up for a day this weekend. “I’m helping Jason out for a while. I give her my best smile. It Would Probably Feel Better After three weekends. I have the routine down pretty well.

Completely second-rate.” They look to be about middle school age. and then I turn to walk straight through the kitchen. I walk back out to see Craig sitting at a table with his family.” I smile weakly. “No. They’re all as ridiculously good-looking as their parents and smile politely as they take off their stuff.” I try to use my work voice. “I need the key for cabin one?” I barely get out the words. “Oh! Here they are!” She looks over her shoulder as their three kids come in. and I start to wonder if I’ll be able to hold the key. I nod. It just took me by surprise that’s all. “I bet. Filthy. my head spinning and feeling like I might pass out.” She starts to hang up her helmet and gloves. try to swallow again. I’m beyond dirty. “Uh. sure. I must look confused. and Lisa. but I’m shaking. person. I smile. he got the weekend off last minute. and not “rough. Let me grab that for you. And like a horrible. I wonder if I’ve ever felt this way. “You okay?” Jason’s voice is full of concern. taking her coat off to reveal the kind of lean body I already knew she had under there. horrible. Used. but I’m determined not to throw up. no sorry. Nate. if you have the key for us?” she asks. The weekend is just . Dirty. I feel like the girl in the soap opera that everyone hates. I cannot remember the last time I felt this way.” “I don’t have my wires crossed. and take the key. How had it been so easy for me to pretend they didn’t exist? He told me the first day we met that he had a wife and kids. Nausea hits me hard. do I?” she asks. set the key on the table.they’re here together? That seems like they’re fine. I think I’m going to be sick. “I didn’t know you were coming up this weekend. “We’re in the first cabin.” I swallow hard and walk into the kitchen in a daze.” I pause. and it isn’t often that we get to come out and play as a family. All I want is to be alone for a few minutes. I’m not around kids much. My fingers are numb. “This is Dickson. but I could be wrong. the kids are out of school. How does she not notice? “Well.

Can I have a minute?” His voice is low. “Why am I reacting like this?” I brush away tears again. I have never. I’ll be facing this for the next three days. I nearly knock Jason over on my way up the stairs. “Go away. He comes in and sits on the bed next to me. I slam my door behind me and sit down on the bed. I feel my eyes well up and press my fingers to my face before they spill over. I’m awful. “Go ahead. I didn’t listen. You told me.starting. I have to get my crap together.” “It’s Jason.” Might as well get it over with now. never done something this stupid. I’ll deserve it. I don’t know if my feelings are from being hurt by a man I’m not supposed to be caring about. I’m sure it’s Craig. still feeling weak and dizzy. Everything’s blurry. I can’t see. “Yeah.” I say. Did I think she didn’t exist?” I’m trying hard to keep my voice in the same low volume as his. I’m waiting for him to say something. I hear a soft knock at my door. deep breaths and put my head down between my knees. really.” The tears spill over. He reaches over and puts a hand on my back. I can’t keep my body from shaking. “Look at this!” I hold my shaking hand out between us. I remember having the thought of ‘am I crossing a line here?’ Why wasn’t that thought a scream? Why wasn’t it louder? I suddenly realize that I’m going to get it from Jason. or if it’s all from feeling like the horrible home-wrecker. . “Go ahead. So much for our truce. “I can’t believe how stupid I am! I mean. finally sitting up and looking at him. What was I thinking? I try to take slow. He holds his hands in his lap and just sits. “What?” His voice is still quiet. It doesn’t much matter since either way it makes me feel like crap. I’m waiting for the ‘I told you so’ that I completely deserve. still silent. I think of how few times Jason has seen me as anything but a mess.

” He rubs his hand across my back a few times.” I’m surprised he’s being so nice about it. “Let me. I’m pissed at him for putting me in this position. excuse me. “Because you have a conscience. Mostly because his wife’s downstairs. Without even thinking I rest my head against his shoulder. “Thanks. acting surprised. you can stay up in this purple room all weekend if you like.Jason looks at me with a small smile on his face. and I’m pissed at myself for the same reason.” Craig looks him up and down once. .” Jason grins just before opening the door. Like Craig has any right to be frowning at Jason. “What do you want?” I ask Craig as soon as the door closes. “I was just leaving. I really did deserve something a lot worse. Well.” His head is cocked to the side. “Dana?” It’s Craig. “Wipe under your eyes again and you’ll look fine. which only sort of helps to calm me down. and no one else will either. Maybe I just wanted him to. He also knows to use a quiet voice up here. frowning a little as he steps through my doorway. “Oh.” Jason’s decent. “Dana?” Craig again. I’m sorry. “Thanks. and I wonder how he looked like Daniel Craig.” Jason whispers.” Jason says.” I take a deep breath in. “That’s what you’re sorry about? Really?” I can feel my face and my body tightening up in reaction to his words. “I’ll go. Much nicer than I deserve. “I called Boz.” He gives me one last rub on the back as he stands up. I won’t judge you for it. Everyone’s entitled to a sick day once in a while. “I didn’t have time to warn you. There’s another knock and Jason and I both look toward the closed door at the same time.

” He grabs my arm and pulls me toward him.” “Oh yeah. She bumps his shoulder with hers when he sits.” His eyes widen a little. Boz and I are in the kitchen. Just remember that I bent over backwards for you. Jason sits down next to Taylor. “Good. and I’m waiting for him to say something that makes him sound like a total dick.” He nods. and I’m screaming ‘screw you’ with my eyes. I don’t think either of us wants me to scream for help right now. We stare.” He looks completely unbothered. now they’re real to me.“Well…yeah. too.” “Still doing summer in Hawaii?” “Stuart kind of relies on me watching his house. slowly working through our mid-afternoon slump. and expected nothing in return…” I jerk my arm out of his hand and stomp downstairs to start my job. “Fine. “Better than I thought I’d be. Craig. “Let go of me. Jase?” she asks. This is a moment I will not back down from. well. This weekend is going to suck. I told you that the first day we met. I now find it repulsive. He’s still doing his best smoldering look. relaxed. “How you doin’.” I stand up and try to move around him and out of the room. which pisses me off even more. “Yeah.” My teeth clench together so hard my jaw hurts. asshole. giving me the look that worked so many times before.” “You knew I had a family. “And you let me believe you were on your way out. and that’s sort of the beautiful part about running this . “That’s your family down there. and I strain to hear without being obvious. even though I’m a mess.

” “I know you would.’ I feel sick.” “Have you done anything else to the lodge. Either way it doesn’t feel good. “Thanks. When he mentioned Dana from work I was worried that he…” “You won’t see them together. since Cass took off?” “No. Jason. and aside from what he may or may not be doing with his free time. but this is even worse. I felt dirty this morning. .” Their voices are tired enough that I know this is definitely not the first time they’ve had this conversation. I’d argue with you there. You always do. though. I smile and stand just out of view.” Jason says. That pretty much solidifies my status with him—another distraction. “Why are you there.” she says. How are things with you?” She pauses for a moment. Taylor? If this is what you have to worry about?” Jason’s voice is full of the same worry he uses with Justine. “Bathrooms need to be next. Her words echo back to me—‘Craig seems distant again.” Nothing’s said for a moment.” “Dana’s cute. “But she’s been a big help. “We have three kids. And here I thought I was playing him. “Craig seems distant again.” He laughs a little.” She sounds as much like she’s trying to convince him as she is herself. “Dana’s a pain in the ass. “Well.place all winter.” I don’t know if his words were meant to sting me or if he’s being nicer than I deserve. I’m sure Boz knows what I’m doing. “Dana’s better than that.” Jason breathes out. he’s good to us at home. you know. but he won’t care.

That’s all. Sunday afternoon I’m standing in the living room watching Craig’s family outside.” It’s actually the perfect thing to say. Jason’s eyes catch mine as I walk past. He doesn’t look at her the way he should.” I can’t believe I admitted that out loud. waiting for a response.” And I’m trying to figure out why he’s even talking to me after the Craig disaster. He may be nice to my face. He stands silent. The rest of us have been there a while.I have to stop listening. Jason laughs a little. but he hates me. A few ladies in full gear sit at the last table. “Join the club. but he quickly looks away. She is an unearthly beautiful woman. strapping on the last of their belongings before heading home. “Just don’t like feeling stupid. “I’m okay. I jump. so I walk down to take their order. My chest sinks into my gut as I stop at the corner table and try to plaster on a smile. “You okay?” Jason asks. I fold my arms across my chest and watch as they pull away. Shoot. . I’d thrown more admiring glances at her this weekend than he had. I want to push the whole Craig mess behind me.” I nod and walk past him to my room not having any idea how close to ‘okay’ I am. “You scared me. Dana.

JASON LOW Craig has seriously sent me four or five texts asking me to talk to Dana. hikes through the crater. Instead I spent part of it with Boz getting high on the beach. remembering how excited Cass and I were when we bought this place.Jason I step outside. I pull out a pair of khakis and a button-up shirt. Never in a million years did I think she’d ever look at me this way—like I’m dirt. Height of stupidity. . and I’ve got to come up with some money to buy Cass out of her half of the lodge. I stare at the wall in the courtroom for a while as our attorneys go back and forth a few times. Today. too. bike rides down the side of the volcano. and then with Justine doing every ridiculous activity that Maui had to offer—snorkling. And I can’t imagine this lodge in the hands of anyone else. There are a million reasons why it’s shitty to sit in a desk across from Cass and draw out how to separate our lives. Be back tonight. so I leave her a note. and now it’s mine. Dana doesn’t know what’s going on today. Crazy how life turned out. Have stuff to do in town. I roll up my nice clothes in a pack. She loved it here. Couldn’t even stay with me through the summer to help with Stuart’s house in Hawaii. Breathed it in and our first winter was like a honeymoon mixed with insane weekends. It’s our last hearing. call Boz for help. walks through the jungle… I glance back at the lodge as I climb on my machine. but I’ve . I’m getting divorced. she couldn’t do it. If any groups come in. That weighs me down. After two winters out here. This was supposed to be our place. and suit up.

Don’t move. “Do I look that bad?” I ask and try to laugh.” She points as she runs up the stairs. The cocky girl who comes out for the weekend crowds is a million miles away. Heard it all. but now that the decision is made. too still. “I’ll be right back. “Yeah.seen it all. Her eyes narrow. It seems silly to keep my beard if she’s cutting my hair. Half. I’m too broken . Dana stops chewing her bowl of kid cereal when I step into the kitchen. so I shuffle into my bathroom and get the clippers. I think I nod. and I look away. I just nod. “Do you cut hair?” “You mean yours?” She’s trying to hold in a smile. Sit down. half… When I look at Cass. half. I want to get it over with. I’m a mess. “Really?” Her voice echoes Justine’s thrilled voice of excitement. and for maybe the first time ever. and gorgeous green eyes. Dana glances at me like she’s noticing me—her eyes floating from my chest to my stomach before looking away. but I almost fucking cry instead. and freckles. We meet at the table closest to the kitchen. shuffling back out. I drop my button-up in the laundry and keep on my undershirt. Now I just want home. “Can you help me with something?” The exhaustion of my day is catching up to me fast. half.” She’s too quiet. but totally failing. her crazy red hair. I’m sad again that we can’t even be civil here. She nods. sure.

” She leans over and her hazel eyes find mine for a moment before she pulls away. “Today I got divorced.” She freezes before resting her hands on my shoulders. but it doesn’t feel that way to me. she lets down her guard. It’s just that since she doesn’t give a shit what I think. “Yep. like I expected.” I sigh.” I set the clippers on the table. The scissors start to snip and hair starts to fall. and instead of it feeling weird.” No. pulling her tank an inch above her designer sweats. Probably too personal for her. And my stubbornness in letting it grow. because I know that can’t happen to her often. Wait. “Can I do whatever I want?” “Whatever you want. “Happens all the time. and it takes everything in me to not at least let out a low hmmm as I relax. I don’t .” I guess she does understand at least one aspect of this.” Her snort pulls a smile from me. “It’s been a rough day. “Yep. “It’s just hair. still not looking at me.” And then her hands jerk away. Jason. okay?” “I wouldn’t want anyone to walk away from me looking like an idiot. you’re sure about this?” she asks as I sit. “Sorry.and tired to give a shit right now.” Her hands start moving through my hair again. “In case you need them. “Be nice. “Every women’s magazine says that you should never cut your hair when you’re emotional. “Lots of people are witnesses and lots of people get in car accidents. right?” “Well. “Don’t make me look like an idiot just to be funny.” I say.” “So…what exactly happened?” She starts running her hands through my hair.” “Really sure?” She shifts her weight to one hip.” And then she snorts as she tries not to laugh. “So.

the curve of her cleavage. “I don’t know. I’m either watching her bright eyes. After a few minutes. and think about what it would be like to rest my hands on her hips. and the last thing I need is that kind of distraction. “You don’t want it all off. her tight stomach. and rub my thumbs over the warmth of her bare skin. There are no safe places for my eyes right now.” I’d never had a beard before Cass left. I think I want it all gone. pale skin. “Done?” I ask and slowly open my eyes. Dana walks slowly around me as she continues to pull my hair and snip. do you?” She sits on the bench across from me. “Do the beard next. she steps back. Being close to this girl is dangerous. Dana’s smile is wide showing her perfect teeth.really feel anything. I close my eyes and try to relax. her long neck. Once again I’m shifting in my seat and taking slow even breaths to keep everything in place. As her fingers slide across my scalp. I can’t watch. or her long legs. and that she doesn’t feel the need to act like a spoiled princess around me— most of the time. which are touching mine. knowing I’m going to feel naked without it. The quiet is nice. Glad I got over hating her. I picture that smooth bit of skin that’s almost always showing above her pants. and subtle curves. and I’m glad we’re friends. Her small brows furrow together in concentration as she uses the scissors to cut my beard closer to my face. if you don’t mind. . Dana rests her knees on the outside of mine as she scoots her chair closer. or looking at her lips. I’m eye level with her waist.” I shift a few times.

I re-check his whole head.” Why don’t I just walk away? His hair is just curly enough that it’ll be fine. and my knees go weak. vulnerable. He really is a good-looking guy. but they’ve been together for so long without me noticing. There’s a lot of hair. And then both my chest and my gut tighten in something like nerves and uncertainty. that now it would be weird if I suddenly moved. His thumbs slide back and forth across my skin. in the small space between where my shirt stops and my pants start.” This is when I need to jump away and shake off this feeling. and I know I should pull away. . “Let me check over the top again. It looks like it really sucks. enjoying taking care of him this way.DANA I Don’t do Vulnerability It strikes me as I cut his beard closer and closer to his face—he looks younger. “Great. Our knees are still touching. and my chest tightens. “How is it?” A corner of his mouth pulls up in a sad half-smile. I study his face. the length of his hair and his features. Our eyes meet briefly. I can’t breathe. “Just finish it off. even if it were a little uneven. Jason still needs to shave. but I’m frozen to the spot. “You’ve been wanting to do this since you got here. “Okay. He has looked nothing close to vulnerable since I arrived. but reaches out and puts a hand on either side of my waist. just at the top of my sweats. When I sit back. I stand up taking his hair in my fingers and feeling the ends.” I let out a nervous laugh because Jason should not be causing tightening in my chest. Jason doesn’t move.” It’s so different. but looks like a whole new person. and it takes a while. “I think you’re done.” I pull out his clippers and slowly trim off the remainder off his beard.” He smiles. His hands feel so good.

runs his hands through his hair. I’m too afraid to even look at him. Tell me how much he likes taking care of me.” I say weakly. Tell me ‘thank you’ for taking care of him. and it steals my breath for a minute. How long have we been like this? He stands up. but while trying to avoid his face. This is Jason. It hits me in that moment that I want him to stand up and kiss me. He’s not looking up at me. I gotta take a shower and get this hair off of me before I go crazy. I don’t understand what I’m feeling. I stand still in shock. it will actually mean something.This is definitely new. Crap. Did I just imagine all that? I’m an idiot. Our faces are so close that his breath touches my face. When did this happen? Why can’t I just do it? Why can’t I just pull him up to me and kiss him? I’ve never been in a position where I want something and haven’t been able to just act on it—at least not for a very long time. He’s staring straight ahead at my stomach. I stand still. I’m never afraid to say something. I end up staring at his smooth lips. It would be so inconvenient. I don’t want this. . I turn and start to walk to my room without looking back. used to be scruffy. it’s now what I feel. tease me and be frustrating Jason. have I? Just like he looked vulnerable a few moments ago. I’ve never been afraid of this. He’s only an inch or so taller than I am.” He laughs a little. This moment is somehow too important. I’m afraid. Him. Do I? “Okay. Take me in his arms. afraid to move. I’m suddenly very aware that I have a leg on either side of his. “Thanks. and shakes it out. I’m afraid to even say anything. Feeling vulnerable does really suck. Afraid he’ll touch me more. Neither of us speaks. but he either doesn’t notice. Afraid he won’t. and I nearly fall over. or ignores me. What’s wrong with me? He steps away just as I’m about to lean in. If we kiss. What kind of girl would choose this? I make it up the stairs to my little purple room and sit down with my palms pressed on my lap afraid to relax. when did this happen? How did I like a guy and not even know it? I can’t like Jason.

I’m confused and don’t like feeling confused. Jason is simply a nice guy and my brain has run away with that a bit. I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve had that. Tomorrow is perfect. and some serious distraction. I laugh inwardly at myself. Is tomorrow okay? Yes. Not since Clive. but he just wants an update. Maybe I imagined everything. . I send him one line explaining that nothing has changed. She answers back almost immediately. I also have one from Keith.I don’t like choices where choosing one thing I want will force me to do something I don’t want. thankful that she’ll be here as a buffer after my strange Jason moment. as I think. Actually. But Leann I send a message to asking for a visit. Choosing Jason would be like choosing Alaska and a rundown old lodge. Then I wonder if Jason even likes me. I try to wrap my brain around this new knowledge. This whole Jason situation requires a girl’s input. I have a note from Leann begging for information. I’ve never even given a thought to whether a guy I like. I hit send. I thought we were having some sort of a moment and then he just shakes his hair out and heads for the shower. After a few minutes alone in my room I decide a few things. I get sick of thinking and feeling so I pull out my computer to check email. liked me. but it’s bound to happen when you spend a lot of time with someone.

and makes me feel a surge of something I shouldn’t be feeling.I Begin to Realize How Stupid I Can Be I walk out to pick Leann up at just before lunch. It feels good to be around another girl. Her wild blond hair sticks out over the top of her car. and I make it to the big parking lot with no problem. and then instead of brushing against him the way I would if I’m curious about how a guy feels. I can’t imagine sharing showmachining or Jason’s lodge with my Northwestern group.” I smile smugly as I pass Jason in the doorway.” She steps on behind me. He is. Leann isn’t hard to find.” I shake my head. “You made it!” Jason waves from the doorway.” Leann whispers in my ear.” “So you’re not going to kill us or anything are you?” She laughs as she pulls on her helmet. “He’s cute. I step around him as widely as I can. and not roll her eyes at. I have nothing to say. One that’s now seeing another side of me that she’ll appreciate. . I found my way out so I’m sure I can find our way back. “Check me out. my heart pounding a little. “Climb on. that’s not at all terrifying. “Dana!” She hugs me. He must have been waiting. “No. but sends me with his GPS— this way if I get lost I can call him.” “Well. “It’s so fun to see you out here like this!” “Yeah. Very—especially now that he has a decent haircut. It’s a bit exhilarating to be on the trail in the wilderness by myself. Jason stays at the lodge. and he’ll tell me how to use the stupid thing. “No problems at all.” I look down at the snowmachine I rode out. It’s very good of him. Maybe worried.

Though. And like she’s not lying. Jason goes into the kitchen.” He starts for his door. “Dana knows where everything is. smiles.” He wanders into the kitchen. She does step too close. I stop. “Will you come back to the hotel?” “I don’t know where I’ll end up right now. “I just got a fax from the DA’s office for you. I watch Jason carefully for any sign that he’s watching her. gauging his reaction. Maybe inviting her wasn’t a great idea.” I nod. As much as I suddenly want he and Leann apart.” “I’ll leave you two.” She smiles at him too widely. “I’m Leann. Good arrangement. and holds her hand out to him. and brings them to the table.” Leann surveys the dining area full of worn picnic tables.” Leann follows me inside. “This is a pretty cool place.” Jason says. This is all way too real. or even . this might not be the best way to do it.” I say. “I’m supposed to go over my statements again before the trial. I’m picking my stack of papers off the fax machine and it feels heavy. Wow. pours three cups of his good coffee. I want him here. if I invited Leann up to get some space from Jason.” And this’ll be a good distraction from Jason. “No. “The case right? Can I see?” “Sure. I slide my part of the police report over to Leann and she starts reading. “What do you think you’ll do when this is all over?” Leann looks at me. I am definitely going crazy. weird. sitting down next to me and across from Leann. She sounds impressed.I’ve got problems.” She stops. “Thanks. “Thank you.” I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to stay in Alaska. Help yourself. tucking her masses of blond curls behind her ears. “Oh.

if that’s what I want. The man asked a question that needs to be answered. His hair’s long enough to still have some curl and go down the back of his neck a bit. he’s like loaded. Worried about what my dad would think if he knew what was going on with me. your house and your car…” “I don’t know. I mean. “And I’m still conflicted too. I need the Ladies. now that it’s just Jason and I. brown eyes would turn heads anywhere. Get a hold of yourself. “I mean. “Nothing. Stick to the plan. “Oh. we did family therapy for a while.” I roll my eyes.” I point her in the right direction. His strong. right?” Leann asks. It would be torture telling my dad that I didn’t want to come home. At the same time… “What’s wrong?” Jason asks. About where I want to be.” And a bit terrifying. Jason nods again. Handsome doesn’t even come close anymore. I don’t have the energy to go over it all right now. but at the same time I recognize that not everyone has extra cars they don’t drive and lives in houses big enough to need housekeepers. “Excuse me.” The papers turn into a blur in front of me. but I find myself sharing it anyway.” Jason rests his head on his hand as he looks at me. She thought we could be functioning better as a family. What’s ironic about the whole thing is that she was the one who was always canceling.” I shrug. and right now. “That’s a slippery answer. Okay. My dad and I got a lot of good laughs out of that. Dana. Guess it depends on your definition. The idea of working for him is pretty appealing. It was always normal to me. there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go back home. I don’t know why this story comes to mind. “When I was little.” She laughs. “Well. but his face is smooth. We’ve always gotten . “It was my mother’s idea. The original plan was to be here for a year. and I’m closing in on that fast. angled jaw and deep.

but at least I wasn’t broken-hearted about losing him. I’m still not sure why I felt the need to tell him. Afraid of everything. It shouldn’t be happening. I was afraid to make a choice. It can’t be happening with someone I’m attracted to. “I told my dad that what I wanted most was to run one of his offices. “When I married Cass it was an easy escape.” I’m glad he shared with me. It’s true. . Our therapist said it forces us to not only be more truthful. I really love it. a possibility with the FBI. I had offers of two different positions in the CIA. and now I never want to leave. Afraid of failure.” Jason’s quiet. Cass and I ended up here. He started to spend more time with me. There was no chance of closeness with my mother.” I look away from him. But really. I hadn’t realized we were leaning in so close. “Whew!” Leann says as she walks back into the room. I think. But now that I’ve been up here a while. but more understanding of the other person as well. it would hurt more than Craig. grooming me in his own way. “Mom left shortly after that. Not that my ending with Craig was so perfect. I think…I’m not sure what I want. Jason and I jump. There’s no good ending here. Scary and dangerous. and it’s uncomfortable. I’m not hiding out anymore. but mostly I just wanted us to be close. Listening. I don’t want anything from me to indicate something that shouldn’t be between us. but I’m starting to realize how close we’re getting.along well. I could blame love on not continuing with my career or my education. I do. So much for Leann helping me with distance. I’m close to the point where if Jason turned away from being my friend.” He eyes stay on me for a moment.” I smile a little at the memory. Mostly because my IQ is high and they were curious. “It’s not that I don’t want it. and an acceptance for my master’s at Oxford. I just felt stupid over the whole situation. “I remember this one day we were told to put the flat of our hand against the other person’s chest and have a conversation.

and we get along. “What’s going on with you and Jason?” I sigh. I haven’t touched him. So…” I’m trying to push it off like no big deal.” . but the whole experience has shaken me. “Nothing.” “Oh. come on. and made me feel like a tramp just for existing. which was supposed to be my first day of more distance.” I look up at her. “He’s hot Dana. His wife is sweet. What happened to the cop.“Okay. “Done with married men. Dana? You don’t have to be having sex for something to be going on. clutching a pillow to my chest. “No!” It makes me way too vulnerable.” “And now Jason. “Honestly. I don’t want real right now. “Not right now.” Leann says as soon as we hit my room.” But I’ve thought about it a few times… “So what.” I sigh and flop onto the other side of my bed. “Wait.” She twists her blond curls on top of her head. “And don’t you think that’s a good thing?” She chuckles. dish. and he was all sweet and caring when you pulled out all that paperwork…” “It’s too much. Not yet. “I guess not.” She shakes her head. “Don’t you get it? He’s seen me all scruffy. “Craig showed up here with his family and no warning. gorgeous. and I hate feeling vulnerable.” She frowns. “Forever. umm…” She snaps her fingers.” Even today. and it’s too much. and I’ve told him things I would never tell someone I was involved with. I’m not ready for real. I’m too young. searching for his name. “Jason is like the real thing.” “Why is that too much?” “It just is.” I shake my head.” She folds her arms as she flops on my bed and rests against the wall.

” I push the hair off my face.” She settles into my bed a little more. “Because you really wanted a dose of my brutal honesty. . or if I brought her here to put another person between Jason and me.” “Why did I invite you here again?” I narrow my eyes and hold in my smile.” “Way too scary.” “That’s not true. Because I think both reasons have already bit me in the ass. “That’s what I thought. “Might be time to change that.” “Oh right. I…” Crap.” Now I’m faced with wondering if I wanted her honesty. “Right now all I want to care about is enjoying my early twenties and having a little fun. “You don’t let anyone in at all.“No wonder you don’t have many friends and hate asking for help. Maybe it’s a little true.” She cocks a brow. “And that never hurt anybody.” Leann smiles at me a little.

JASON And I Thought Distraction Was Supposed to Help “Jason!” James yells from the front door at way too early in the morning for a weekday. So much for distraction. You and Leann should join us. Her friend being here isn’t helping me keep my distance. And then I stumble as the reality of how good she’d feel hits me. Boz will be over sometime later. not because of her. instead I ended up telling her something I don’t think I’d voiced to anyone but Justine. . and what it would have been like to put my lips on hers. “Jase!” Josh this time. And probably watching a movie tonight.” Join us? I guess it would be a dick move to not invite her. I jerk up my snow pants to cover my quickly growing hard-on. Then I think about her cutting my hair. Well. she definitely has me distracted. No bra. White tank. I’m not in high school. “What’s going on?” Dana rubs her eyes as she stumbles down the stairs. I knew I needed someone here to keep me busy. and I run for my gear. “My brothers. so I invited my brothers. but I’m thinking that me and my brothers. In the draft from the doorway. Seriously. “Hurry your ass up!” I wave him off as I shove on my boots. to keep me distracted from Dana. This is ridiculous. “Your distraction is here! Now get your ass outside before we leave you in the dust!” The front door of the lodge slams. but I’m supposed to be getting distraction from her. or my hands on her firm body—aside from her waist. We’ll be out all day.

It’s bound to double after tonight.” I nod a few times. But Leann’s headed home. And just when I open my mouth I hear machines start up and take off. It’s fine because I can always find my way back. what? Are we like the token girls?” she teases. Assholes. “So. shaking snow off their gear as we get it hung up. but don’t know what. might not go over too well. “Can’t eat just one.” I start to say something else. Dana shrugs. yes. They’ve given me shit about her since they met her two weeks ago. which is a more likely outcome. “Boz baked brownies. “Did you know Boz bakes?” Dana’s eyes are wide as she meets us in the entry.” I zip up my coat and grab my helmet. and Dana in the same room. “If we were in middle school. “What?” Dana almost stops chewing in partial confusion and then shoves another bite into her mouth.who will all be getting wasted. I swear Josh and James try to get us lost on purpose. Boz is half the reason they come up here. Guess I’ll see you guys later. can you?” Josh and James are laughing with me. They’re in on the joke. She chuckles a little and takes another huge bite. or they’ll say something idiotic. but sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. I sprint outside so I’m not left in the dust. “Have fun. It’s been dark for at least an hour by the time we make it back to the lodge. . I’m trying not to laugh because there’s only one kind of brownies that Boz bothers to make.

” James whispers. “I should have warned you about the brownies. but not really at him.” Rory shakes his head and steps around her. she leans her body into my side and rests her chin on my shoulder. “Right. . “Dana you are so stoned. I definitely don’t need my brothers seeing us close. She’s poured five bowls of fruit loops. It’s a tradition of his. “What the hell are you doing?” I’d be mad if it wasn’t so damn funny to watch her transfixed. “Magic brownies? What on earth is that supposed to mean?” Rory laughs then. I stand too close. Jase. She holds out her hand as she steps closer and rubs her palm on the spikey hairs.” “I’m totally cool with it.“Boz only makes magic brownies. They’re all moving together. My mind is blank right now. Magic brownies. “I’m not…” And then I see the light go on. “No problem!” I call back and follow Dana.” She wraps her arms around my neck from the side. “A beer or two to go with my joint.” Dana spins and heads for the kitchen. “I got more where those came from. and Dana’s attention is suddenly on him. “Of course you’re okay with it… now. “Look at the colors. Wait. Dana’s brows come together.” She gets to the bottom of the bag and shakes it a few times. and instead of stiffening up and leaning away. “Wanna say something?” she asks. I’m not sure if Dana does this kind of thing. “I’m hungry.” I suddenly feel a little bad. spraying multi-colored crumbs all over the counter. She’s staring at his nearly bald head. and I’m wondering how to step away without being a jackass. brother?” Josh calls from the living room.” I run my hand down her arm before stepping away.” Boz walks past us into the living room.

huh?” She wanders slowly around the counter and around the tables to the living room. and wags his brows a few times. “We are not doing that. “What’s going on?” Dana’s eyes are on me. Truths. Something tells me that if I were to lean in for a kiss tonight. I’m now glad Dana’s so stoned because with any luck. “Why don’t you go see if everyone wants some.” Dana pouts. and then at me. Josh and James clap. knowing I’ll definitely need to keep my distance tonight because…just. for a million reasons.” I say. “That we’re way too old to be playing. And already.” I shake my head. “A game we used to play as kids. I know I’m going to lose this battle. I watch her go. “Warnings. she’ll miss all the innuendos that are going to be flying around tonight. Dares.” Dana ignores me and looks at Boz. I might get one.” “I wanna.“Oh-kay.” Boz looks around at the group. “So what do we do?” “No way. I’m so screwed. The reality of what that could mean settles into my gut. and Secrets. . who’s sprawled on the large sofa alone.” I put a bowl in each hand. James glances at Dana. “Light?” Boz holds out a joint as I flop on the couch next to James and across the room from Dana.

I sit up tall with my legs crossed in front of me on the couch. . or. Boz passes his joint over to James or Josh. What do I do?” I stare at him intently. Boz. “If you ever go in for a Brazilian wax. I grab a fistful of Fruitloops and put them in my mouth. Let’s just start at the top and work our way down. They’re interchangeable because they’re brothers and their names all start with J. Truths. or Secret. but these guys are fun.” I nod. It doesn’t matter.” He sounds more resigned than excited. and I decide that I like being stoned. I laugh again. Rory. “So. and Secrets.” Boz laughs. “You give us a warning. I sit up even taller and try to be serious like Boz. Jason looks at me. I really want to play. I’m not sure which. Dares. This is perfect for a room full of guys. Dare. “Awesome. one of Boz’s brownies might also do the job because…wow.” I think really hard and then it comes to me. “You get to pick but we go around the circle four times so you’ll eventually have to do everything. and Jason all cringe. Truth.” “Okay.” I emphasize the last word slowly. hoping he knows I’m serious. which makes me extra curious about all of his turns. “Dana can be first. but I’m hungry. and this night is fun.DANA Warnings. “Oh. drink a bottle of tequila first. “You pick—Warnings.” Boz slumps. a joint in his hand. Dana.” I have no idea what I’m going to be doing. Basically telling us to never do something stupid that you’ve done. Jason takes another drag off the joint and passes it on.” “I have no idea what that means.” “See? I’m even going to volunteer to be first. “Warning!” I yell as I put both my hands in the air and they laugh a little.

” Rory says and raises his eyebrows a few times.“What’s a Brazilian wax?” Josh asks.” “Okay.” I look back toward Boz.” Rory nods. “Dare. . “Your turn. I wonder how long I was starting at…whatever I was just staring at.” “Give it your best shot. do some of that Capoeira you’re so good at. It’s final. down there. “Why do you get to pick what we ask her?” Jason asks.” Jason laughs. I look up. “I’m too high to do that right now. My mouth drops open. but he’s still balanced on his hands and then he’s up and moving in these crazy incredible ways. “It’s not my turn anymore!” Things get hazy when it’s not my turn. “Oh. “Truth. “It’s like that Fox guy in Ocean’s Twelve? Jason can do that. “Whoa. Wow. “Because I made the brownies that made her so willing. His eyes look me up and down once.” Jason says.” Rory points at him. “Do you always do that?” I laugh.” Josh says. “Oh.” I’m still staring at Jason’s very limber. “And I’m way out of practice.” Boz looks over his shoulder at Jason. and they take it all off. “They wax you. he’s on his hands and then his legs are off to the side. Dana!” Boz waves his hand in front of my face. “The dancing thing?” I really want to see this.” I nod seriously. “Okay.” he says. “The what?” I ask. very strong body. Jason stands up and before I really understand what’s happening. you know.

His name was Clive. “Daaaanaaaaaa…” Boz says my name real slow while he stares at me. Wait. I slide . “Ow.” I’d given him everything. man!” Rory reaches out behind him “Dana. I start laughing again.” “Told ya. Jason is totally the best looking guy here. ‘Truth’ starts around the room. Even the brownies don’t take away the memory of the rawness. but we weren’t allowed to tell anyone. We weren’t allowed to tell anyone. “Have you ever.” I whisper the last part out. This is what everyone expects. “He came from this great family. “I really thought he was it. been whatever he wanted me to be. and he knew I wasn’t it before we even started.” Boz looks over at Jason. I was a freshman in college. “No. We used to fool around when my brother had a group over. did I say that twice? I’m not sure. “Pick out the handsomest man in the room and kiss him. “Oh! Never!” One of the other boy’s answers. My brother set us up.” “Oh. “One time.” Rory says. Our eyes meet for a moment. Wow. Jason slaps him on the back of the head. I laugh because I have a way better idea. The room is smoky and I’m starving and having a really hard time concentrating. especially without his beard.” Boz looks at me carefully. Hmm. “What?” “Time for your dare. I liked him all through high school.” This is so easy. He was a friend of my brother’s. “It sucked. They’re talking about me behind my back. He was the first guy I ever…you know. I sit there in a daze for a while. They’re so funny.Obviously.” I remember him so well. ever had your heart broken?” I’m nodding before I realize I’m doing it. Not anymore. I don’t want her back. My eyes get wide.” “I think she should take off her shirt.” It’s Jason’s voice.

His beard is really in the way. The game fuzzes again.” I stare at Jason.” I shake my head. eyes blinking. “Not at all. “Secret time.off the couch and crawl on my hands and knees to Boz. . They laugh a little with me.” Jason folds his arms and lets his head rest off to the side—sure signs he doesn’t believe me. I’ve never kissed anyone this fat before. and I can’t take it anymore. I kiss him. I fall off of Boz’s lap sideways onto the floor laughing. can it? “Secret time. I push my body against his and really kiss him. I take myself by surprise then. Everyone’s staring.” I laugh. “Haven’t you been paying attention?” “No.” Boz explains. Boz is sitting against the back of the couch with his legs stretched out on the floor. and curl my fingers through his hair. I’m not sure what the other guys do. “Beards are out for me.” I’m very pleased that I have a secret to share. His belly is significant. I try not to laugh. “Jason is a writer and he wrote a book that is so good I stayed up almost all night for two nights to finish it. “Really. “How…?” Jason is staring at me. Boz folds his arms across his chest and looks smug.” I don’t move for a moment and then I roll over and crawl back to my place on the couch. “You tell a secret about someone else in the room. lean forward. His brothers are staring at him.” Boz answers. and let myself look at his dark eyes for a moment or two. I have one about Jason. I sit on his lap and straddle him. I feel good. relaxed. It can’t already be my turn again. I think about all the stories about food and stuff getting stuck in beards. His beard is all scratchy and feels crazy. “But isn’t that like truth?” I’m completely confused. “Oh.” “What?” I ask. Josh crams two full handfuls of Fruitloops into his mouth and then spews them all over the floor.

This is the kind of rescuing that I can do. you know. brown eyes. Who in their right mind would leave a guy like Jason? He shrugs. Jason’s expression.” Jason looks down. “Cass knew.” I look around. Jason. “I didn’t know you were writing. and put my arms around him.” I flatten my hands over my chest. “I feel really bad. He’s so warm. I downloaded your writing file.” “How could she not like it?” I’ve never met her. The thing that keeps me sane up here all winter.” I smash my face into his chest. “I’m sorry for stealing that file from your computer. . Cass didn’t like it. I love your book. Again. “I don’t even know what to say.” Jason’s mouth is open in shock. I slide next to him on the couch. Back when you were mad at me because I was having sex with Craig. but you have to know how good it is. The espionage I performed right underneath his nose.” It’s so damn funny. “I’m sorry.” Boz says. and I really wanted to know what you were so intent on with all that typing away. “It’s before we were getting along. Don’t stop writing. about Craig.” I point at each one of them. it just seems like the thing to do. but I’m glad I did. He probably doesn’t know what to think right now. Jason. “It’s my happy distraction. Is espionage the right word? I don’t care. and I really don’t like her. I catch Jason’s very warm. The room is hazy and spinning. half on his lap. But Jason’s book is awesome. “Please don’t say anything to anyone.” He stares. I get up from my spot on the couch and walk over to him. Sex with Craig. Essspionage… A few of the guys choke a little and look back at me. It makes me sound cool. Maybe the Craig thing shouldn’t have come out. I don’t know why.“Someone called so you left the room. I wanna be cool. “You downloaded stuff from my computer?” Jason’s jaw clenches.

I would hate being dismissed like that. flop down. . and realize I’m exhausted. but don’t last for long. waiting for me to go back to my place.He pats me on the back a few times and then leans away. I try to keep my eyes open while the guys talk. but tonight I don’t even care. Normally. I walk carefully back to the couch.

and wonder if I should take her to her room. “You might start drooling.” He laughs as he stumbles a few times while heading for the stairs. Instead of doing the smart thing and pretending it’s just anyone. I stand in front of the couch.” Josh punches my shoulder. You stare at her way too much for the friend bullshit you keep selling me. why she can’t just let go. but is still heavy.” “Dude. He never was a guy who knew when to stop smoking. and I don’t think I’ll get any customers in the morning. and slide my hands underneath Dana. all of the guys lifting girls and running with them is bullshit. Also. completely crashed. I want to know about the guy who was stupid enough to break her heart.” “I’m not. Leaving Dana on the couch is definitely the smart thing to do. “See you tomorrow. and you’re already pushing boundaries here. She has the palest freckles that I haven’t noticed before. “She’ll be fine. “Just leave her. I want to know all of it.JASON I’m Normally Very Smart. She sighs as I shift. and why her brother and dad stress her out so much. and none of these things are .” I wave him off. Also. slowly picking her up. but I never know. She’s tiny. I’m amazed he can lift his body off the floor. I told you to be nice. I realize what a dangerous mistake this is. staring down at her. and a tiny scar near her hairline. she feels way too damn good here for me to maintain my sanity. The moment she’s in my arms. I want to know if she got teased about her freckles. and rolls her head against my chest. “Don’t stare. Really.” Boz shakes his head. and I have a long ways to go. and where the scar came from. All of it. but I didn’t tell you to fall for her.” Boz smirks and shuffles for the door. I soak up the moment as I walk up the stairs.

things I should care about. But we know this crap about friends, right. I know where all Boz’s scars come from. But I also would definitely not be turned on by him standing in a tank top in a drafty doorway—so there’s that. I nudge her door open with my foot and lay her in bed, grabbing a few of Justine’s extra blankets from her closet and resting them on top of her. Maybe I should try to get Justine back here so Dana can go home, or wherever she’ll end up. The problem is that I don’t want her to go.

Losing My Mind

Last night begins to hit me again as I suck down my third cup of coffee. My brothers are asleep, but I recognize Dana’s footsteps as she shuffles down the stairs. “Morning,” she whispers as she pulls her sweater more tightly around her and walks with lids halfclosed to the coffee pot. “How are you today?” I ask. She shrugs. “Better than hung over.” I’m now embarrassed about carrying her to her room. It was probably some kind of violation or something, and then I remember she took files from my computer, and that maybe I should still be pissed. I start to ask her why she thought it was okay to take something from my computer, when she speaks instead. “How did I get upstairs?” I choke, and then cough. “I helped you.” Not a lie. “Why did you think it was okay to take files from my computer?” Now we’re even. “You were totally grouchy toward me, and I was curious.” She slides onto the seat across from mine, her mug clutched in both hands. “I sent it to a friend of mine. A literary agent.” “You what?” I almost drop the coffee. “It would be a waste if you didn’t.” She takes another sip and stares out the window. How can she be so calm right now? “It wouldn’t be a waste! I had a lot of fun writing it!” Holy… I just. It wasn’t ready. I hadn’t researched. I was waiting… For what, Jason? For what? “You can tell him no if you don’t want it to go anywhere, and I know I should have asked you, but I

couldn’t help myself. I’m sorry.” She’s not sorry. “You don’t look sorry,” I mumble. “I’m nervous about it.” She smiles, looking a little more awake. “I’ve thought about it since I hit send.” We’re silent for a minute, and she leans her elbows on the table, putting us closer. My heart starts hammering. “I’ve been thinking about something else,” she says. “Of course you have.” I’m wondering what she’s going to be on about. “You’re like Justine.” Silence hangs between us for long enough that I start to think she might be serious. “Am I the first girl Craig brought up here?” She holds her breath, waiting for my answer. I don’t want to answer this. At all. She already feels like shit over the situation. She doesn’t need to feel worse. Dana should never just be a girl on someone’s list—she should be the girl on the list. With that realization, I stand and move away. Too much. Too intense. “Well, that’s answer enough. It serves me right. I was so proud of myself.” Her voice is so low. “Don’t feel bad.” I dump the rest of my coffee in the sink, nerves already on edge. “You did the right thing in the end.” “And I’ll never do that again.” “So, lesson learned.” She’s not stupid. “Uh…yeah.” She tries to laugh, but she’s obviously still affected by the situation. The kitchen is already spotless from last night, and I’m not sure how to stay busy. “We’re okay, right?” she asks. “I mean. We get along, and we’re okay?” She’s still clutching her mug, her wide eyes on me, and looking younger and more vulnerable than I think I’ve ever seen her. “Of course we get along.” I lean back against the counter, trying desperately to look relaxed. “It’s good. We’re good.” It’s just me that’s apparently losing my mind.

Boz is missing. she would not have been my first pick. She’s way too pretty. a little early in the weekend for any big crowd. and if I had. Cass. Funny. that this place is now my “normal. Maybe it’s forced.DANA Sometimes Talents Need to be Used for Evil. The rest of the table has forgotten their menus and is all straining to see or hear something. I turn around to see Boz and the lady with him use the backdoor to the kitchen. pretty. frizzy red-haired girl. I’m a little surprised because I’ve never seen him with a woman before. but that’s not too unusual. He sounds tired or bored. or Good…Depending Which Side You’re On It’s Saturday morning. the redhead who just came in with Boz is his ex-wife? I can’t wait to hear what will happen next.” Jason says. so I sit down on the edge of the bench seat and chat with the guys while they look over the menu and tell me about their morning ride. I like Boz. I try not to think about how I’m pretty sure Jason carried me to my bed and covered me up. There’s nothing else to do yet. ready for lunch. Jason’s in the kitchen cooking. Wait. but whatever girl he’s with needs to be quirky enough to love him. “This should be interesting. Jason is nearly impossible to read. . He leans back in his chair.” I stand by the table with a large indecisive group.” she says.” he says back in his flat voice. He’s nice once you stop being afraid of him. “You’re observant.” one of the guys at the table says. but a large group has just come in. which sounds really mean. The door opens and Boz steps in with a short. “You cut your hair. or how I should have taken advantage of being high and kissed him without consequence. “Hey. or at least with very little consequence.

” I’m floored. “I’m just up spending a little time with my brother. “You and I got in a fight over it. Jason. I look at the guys sitting at the table. I smile and walk around the counter like nothing’s going on. I find myself straining to hear. and I find myself wanting to slap it out of her. which isn’t a problem. I turn back around to them just before I round the corner into the kitchen.” he starts. I remember. “What do you want. How had that not been mentioned? “I have a few things to pick up. remember?” “Oh yeah. A few of the guys at the table exhale at that remark and their smiles widen. “Is this good?” I knot my shirt up quickly to show a little more stomach than I normally would. Guess there are no secrets around here. She’s with Boz.” “Okay. You’ve never even touched it!” I’ve never heard Jason raise his voice before. Thumbs up. I get smiles and thumbs up. Cass?” Now Jason sounds impatient. and you walked out. They all nod.” I whisper. Guess they all like that up here. “Jason’s ex-wife is Boz’s sister?” I whisper. The whole table has their heads turned toward the kitchen. waiting to see what will happen next.” She sounds accusatory.” Her voice is filled with smugness and spite.“This place looks just the same. “Yes! You gave it to me. and I walk toward the kitchen. “That wasn’t what the fight was about. The one closest to me finishes off the order. not moving and kind of smiling at each other. “Your machine? Are you kidding me?” Jason’s voice is loud and definitely a notch or two above annoyed. I need to get your order in there now. even though we can’t quite see inside from here. Funny. and I wanted to take my machine out for a ride. .

She acts like she knows exactly what she’s doing and what she wants. Flirting with Jason like this could be fun. Making people crazy has always been one of my specialties.“Hey Jase. I smile back. without all the strings that might come with someone I like as much as him. Cass. raise my eyebrows at him once. This is perfect.” Jason turns his back toward her. which I guess would make me your half-boss. Cass takes off a short while later with Boz. “I’m Dana. “Are you kidding me?” She gives me the once over.” I smile. It’s a way for me to be as close to him as I’ve been wanting to be.” She smiles wickedly. “The snowmachine isn’t mine anymore anyway. but I don’t think she has a clue on either count. Hoping to hint at something without being too obvious. I’m sure. I walk up closely next to him. the half-owner of this place. it’s nice to meet you…” I trail off as if I don’t know exactly who she is. He watches me both times. I’m kind of sad she’s gone. We might have a lot of fun with her here.” Jason quips. “Just until you get your money. I promise myself I won’t go too far. set something on the counter and walk behind him again—going just a little closer than necessary.” He flashes me a smile. My chest fills up with something that really shouldn’t be there. we have a big hungry group out there. He isn’t dumb. Headed to his place. “Thank you. but it’s so easy. I look at his soon to be ex-wife. and start to fill up a pitcher of beer from the tap. He pulls me into his arms. She’s better than I gave her credit for. She’s smart but not as smart as Jason. walk behind Jason. I walk into the kitchen a few minutes after Boz and his sister leave. and I have no choice but to hug him back. and Jason’s scowl turns into a smile. I just laugh. “It’s Dana’s.” . The guys give me another quiet round of thumbs up and smiles as I head for their table. a few times. Cass isn’t hard for me to read. “I’m Cass. I’m sure she’s suddenly unsure of what’s going on between Jason and me. Part of her payment for working so hard.

” “Probably. I can’t help but smile. The lines with Jason are already blurry.” I rest my hands on my hips.” Boz kind of laughs. it’s good for her. “Jason here?” he asks. “He mentioned something a week or two ago.” “She’s trying not to let on. but I’m Switzerland. “Cass is your sister.” Boz now looks a little irritated.” He sighs and shakes his head. but—” “Well. so I have to keep this all straightened out.” “I see. I don’t think she said anything about weekend. I’m still finishing dishes up at just after eleven when Boz comes in the front door. “Yeah. I’m sure she’d rather think of him here pining away without her. steady kind of guy. . get a pitcher of water. I’ve set up some good guidelines—I’m not friends with guys I sleep with.” I pull away. Maybe the weirdness is my fault. but they shouldn’t be. Things with him are so up and down. “So.” Boz frowns. and I don’t get too close. but she’s irritated as hell you’re here. “I just wanted to apologize. waiting for his answer. and leave. I didn’t know she was coming until she called me from the parking lot.” Boz agrees. Jason’s this relaxed. I tell him I can clean up after the straggling TV watchers take off for their rooms. obviously feeling bad about the awkward situation. but he was in a foul mood so I sent him to his room. “Well. I have to get out of here. As soon as we shut the grill down for the night. when I really shouldn’t. Since Clive. We’re supposed to be friends. “I don’t think she’s given much thought to the fact that he’d eventually move on. “Yeah.He feels too good. He just nods and wanders off.” I smile. “Yep. To anyone. Unfortunately Jason is now grouchy. then he should have warned me.” “Do you think Jason wants her to come back?” I hold my breath.

Don’t get too close. Jason is having fun. If it does get too close. messing my hair up in all different directions. I’m good for him. ducking under his arm and pushing him away.” Boz shakes his head. He rubs his hand over my head. “Night. “Why not?” “Because she’d never be satisfied. Get out of here. not anymore… He shouldn’t anyway. Or run. . I can do this. Okay.” “Wow. The guy is way too uptight. get out or walk away. and it’s the only way I know how to make sure that doesn’t happen.” I reply. Dana.” “Good. That was quite a compliment. but there’s no getting away from Boz. you’re good for him. I’m going to go bug Jason now. “You know. I’m having fun.” I’ve never seen him so serious. thanks. Dana. I can’t get hurt again.” I lean back against the counter. “Hey!” I throw my hands up to block him.“I don’t think so… Well. I’m going to have to stick really close to my rules.

It’s definitely that small exposed part of her lower back. and walks back out to the tables—coffee in one hand. It’s times like this that make it really shitty to not have the ability to call in sick. With me stuck in the kitchen. I really should be watching her. but I have to steal a few glances at her flat stomach. I work to focus on her face as we speak. there’s no way to be subtle about checking up on Cass. I can see the curve. shrugs. There is no way she didn’t spend extra time getting ready today. water in the other. but my ex-wife is taking inventory in what used to be our place. it’s not her stomach that’s the most distracting thing.” She smiles an all too innocent smile and bats her lashes. I half turn from the stove and gesture from her head to her feet with my spatula. smiles.JASON The First Time This Kind of Thing Hasn’t Made me Totally Paranoid Dana looks unusually nice today. The lodge needs me whether I want to be here or not. No one could ignore that. She works hard for it. Has she asked me something? I don’t want to let on that I don’t know what she’s talking about so I snatch the orders out of her hand. and . Though. which makes me immediately suspicious. knowing I wouldn’t have time to watch over her. spatula still in hand. Now that I’m watching her walk away from me. “And…nothing’s up with me. “What’s with you today?” I ask as I turn back toward the stove. I hope she doesn’t notice my brief glances because she definitely doesn’t need any more fuel for her ego. She’s standing here looking at me expectantly. “I could ask you the same question. and I swear her jeans are lower. instead of in my apartment. Dana walks into the kitchen then with two more orders. I guess it should be obvious.” She jerks her head toward my door. Her shirt is definitely an inch or two higher than normal. I’m suddenly sure she came on the weekend on purpose. She looks down at herself.

it was kind of a nice place to be lost in. Where did the panties come from? Cass’s brows go up another notch. I was really lost there for a minute. Before she moves away. and staring at Cass with what must be an odd expression.” She smiles at Cass. “Oops! Sorry!” Dana half sings from the kitchen entrance. Jason. Now’s my chance to touch her back. Dana leans in and puts her arm behind me to get something off the counter. It’s the first time I’ve let myself enjoy that particular look from her. while we’re still playing this game.” I grin. “You’re going to have to talk to your sister. Damn. I have to do it now. She lets her body press up against mine in the process. though I could probably imagine it on someone.” Her voice makes it sound like she’s called my name more than once. I glance Cass’s direction and try to look bored. She doesn’t flinch at all. She looks up at me and smiles her best mischievous smile. I finally find my arm. Cass assumes that I haven’t had any girls around. “Those are mine. and I have to keep myself from jumping.can’t keep myself from imagining running my hands across her smooth skin and then down… Okay. and I let my fingers slide away as she leaves the kitchen. She’s holding up a small lace thong that I’m sure I’ve never seen before. I forget . She disappears to the end of tables past the corner where I can watch. grabs the panties. Cass comes into view too close. Today it’s for my benefit—most days it just makes me nervous. and stuffs them in her back pocket. She thinks they’re Justine’s. smiles again. Though. She tries to look embarrassed and totally fails. I reach forward as she turns and touch her in that curved space I’ve been staring at since she arrived. “Jason. I have to get a grip. Stop. Which I haven’t but… I stand there dumbfounded. I flip over the pancakes just in time to keep them from burning. At least she can’t see me staring from this angle. And her skin is like warm silk under my fingers. Probably on purpose. Dana stands up tall.

She grabs my ass. Cass leans against the counter. “I know it’s early. “You look like you could use one.” I look at Cass with what I hope is a relaxed smile and shrug. “What’s ridiculous Cass…” I’m annoyed. soft skin and my imagination running away with the little lace thong in her pocket. “…is you coming up here on what you know is going to be a busy weekend to dig through stuff you’ve already sorted!” I pull eight unburned pancakes off the griddle with satisfaction just as she slams the door. folding her arms. shit.about Cass. I forget about the spatula in my hand. around the side of Cass and pulls out a beer. I pitch them and start over. It’s impressive for a girl who didn’t actually drink beer when she arrived. She’s pulled so much crap… “That doesn’t seem like you. Her face is disapproving. My apartment. it’s way too distracting. though it isn’t discreet at all. She wants an explanation. I’m gonna have to talk to her about the T-shirt though. She easily pops the top off on the counter and takes a long drink. her voice flat. Dana is back in just minutes. but there’s no mistaking the unpleasant look from Cass’s face. as if she’s trying to be discreet. As often as Dana’s aloofness and overconfidence has irritated and annoyed me. “Pancakes.” I say under my breath as I turn to eight blackened lumps on the stovetop. too. It all happens in a second. it sure is working in my favor today. I laugh a little as I watch that smooth curve of skin walk back out of the kitchen. but I’m glad. but…” She opens the fridge casually. just like that.” She hands me the bottle and steps behind me for paper towel on the counter. but I know her well enough to know that the little interchange got to her.” Cass shakes her head and starts back toward our apartment.” Cass says. “This is ridiculous. I hate to admit this. “Oh.” Cass points back and forth between me and where Dana disappeared around the corner. . “That. All of it disappears. Just over a small strip of warm. Dana is pretty unbelievable.

Not just attracted to her. “Nope. Anything I . like most men probably are. I realize she’s the “weekend girl” right now. I stand still for a breath longer.Dana pops back minutes later and puts a few dishes into the washer.” She smiles. She just laughs and disappears again. It seems safe enough. “I’m just having a little fun.” She stands too close. One part of me wants to grab her exposed sides and kiss her.” Does that mean she wants me to know she’s flirting with me? Or is she just messing with me? Shit. She rests her weight on one side —shifting her hip over and making her waist show even more curve. “No one’s here to see you flirting with me right now. takes the beer from my hand and drinks. “You’re not trying to get her back. “Just you. and I have to shake my head at her. As I look down at her face. and the other part.” I tilt my head so I can look up at her. I can tell. “Yeah. and I’m finishing dishes. I’m starting to really like her.” I say. which makes me wonder why I’m not starting more days off this way. turns and starts wiping counters down instead. “Sorry. I stop my job and take a deep breath. If you did want her back. too much?” Only her smirk makes me know that she enjoyed every second of it. Dana walks back into the kitchen. and I want to do it again. leaning against the counter. “What if I was trying to get her back or if I was trying to get along or something?” I ask. I think about touching her back. the smarter part. I tip the bottle up and drink a few swallows. Cass is still poking around in our room. the place is quiet in our afternoon slump. I think you’re having way too much fun. Her happy voice carries into the kitchen as she talks with one of the regular groups of guys. “What exactly are you doing?” I ask. She’s impossible to read when she’s like this. but it’s hard to contain my smile. but really like her. I’m already more relaxed. What the hell am I thinking? After lunch rush is over. you could get her.

You’re still a mystery.” Her eyes narrow. I should probably keep that in mind. Another group comes in the front door and Dana jumps off the counter to greet them. it probably has as much to do with the attention she gets as anything else. Just her. “Three months? And you’re the relationship expert?” I ask wondering who this Clive person is because his name’s been mentioned more than once. “Let’s just say that I know what I don’t want. “Spoiled. We get looks from more than just Cass. I swear she has fun out here. On Sunday night I know I can’t avoid the conversation forever so I head into my apartment to talk to . Dana hovers close to me all weekend.” She shrugs. I don’t think she’s moved on as much as she thinks she has. “A real one? Aside from Clive? Three months or so.” She smiles and hoists herself onto the countertop.” she whispers.” Dana rests a hand on the counter. Though. “I’m just sayin’…” I turn away from her then and continue working. “You think you have this all figured out. I don’t think you care whether you’re getting along or not. That figures. “Seriously. but the corners of her mouth are turned up. don’t you?” I’m watching her carefully for any kind of reaction. what’s the longest relationship you’ve ever had?” I ask as I start to prep for dinner.may or may not be doing would only help that cause. “Be nice.” she teases.” I know she won’t be offended. I’m suddenly glad Cass showed up. “Nope. We’ve talked too much. She’s a lot more fun when we’re getting along.” “So…you don’t want you. Also. whiny or someone who doesn’t know what they want. “Married. Almost. “And what’s that?” I ask.

spiteful look I’ve gotten used to from her. “Aren’t you going to take the couch? The sink? The bed?” I shouldn’t be acting snide right now. Jason. I’m not good with dates. There’s really no reason we can’t be civil. and I’m certain I won’t be seeing her anymore this weekend. huh?” She zips up her pack and looks at me as if she doesn’t believe it. not too dark. mean. She starts toward the door. I thought marrying her would be the safest thing. Tired of the fighting. I start to protest. I throw a couple of logs into the stove. It’s too exhausting. but I can’t help it. When I walk in she’s stuffing one of my sweatshirts into the large pack she brought with her.” “Fine. We used to be good friends. This woman has taken more emotional energy than I thought I had to give. and I were the best threesome ever. “So. She stands up and shifts her pack up on her shoulder. That’s what we’d always say as kids. I don’t know. you and Dana.” Cass. “I don’t want us anymore. “Does it matter?” I try to look bored. Jason. I’m mad. I’ve actually been nothing but nice for months. Maybe she already is my ex-wife.” Cass is trying to look hard.” I’m just tired of this. “You know we could get along. The fire always casts a nice light into this room. She slams the door on her way out. “Not anymore.” I shake my head. It’s a relief.my soon to be ex-wife. We were friends for a long time before we got together. I came in here to be nice. . But it would be nice if you could come up here and leave your bitchy attitude at home. Not too light. “Screw you. It’s good for writing. Cass. Be nice to one another. She got everything she asked for in the divorce and whatever she stuffed in her pack over the weekend as well.” She looks at me with this narrow-eyed. Why does she do this? I don’t know. “I don’t want to get back together. “That’s not what I’m asking for. It just goes to show that we’re still at that point where one wrong word is bound to set the other one off. but it just isn’t worth it. Boz.” I sigh. This sucks.

I pop open another beer. not wanting to think about how many it’s taken me to get through the day and pull out my laptop. . I sit in the near dark wondering what the hell I’m going to do about my reaction to a smooth strip of skin attached to a girl I have no business being attracted to. But instead of jumping back into writing.

I’m already exasperated. Including Cass. What the hell? “I don’t even know what to say to that.” I can’t believe she’s pulling this . “Jason. Now that I’m okay with it. begged her to come back. I’d done everything I could think of.” she says quietly. I’m just about to sit and enjoy the stillness of this place when the phone rings. “Screw you. “Did you ever love me?” This right here was the reason we weren’t able to put things back together. “Look. I work hard. and you destroyed me for it. My one attempt to be nice ended in her walking out and slamming the door behind her. She can’t just say it. “I miss you. try to pop the top off on the counter like Dana and fail. Everyone who was staying here for the weekend is now gone. I go inside. and have been okay with it. The weekend hadn’t been fun.” I answer. I’m pissed. I have no idea where Dana is. I laugh at myself and after a couple more tries. but I don’t see her long enough to say anything. I’m still not sure what on earth she’d been doing for hours and hours in my place. “What?” It comes out harsh. but it’s such a mess that I just don’t have the energy for it right now. she misses me. Shit.” I say. I know her well enough to know she’s crying.As If I Needed Even More Proof That I Don’t Understand Women I keep meaning to thank Dana on Monday. I get it. Cass! Of course I did. and I’m too exhausted to care.” I’d called her. I…” Cass starts. “Denali Lodge. She pulls this ‘poor little me’ stuff to get what she wants. you’re the one that started all this. I even open the door of the messy Quonset hut shed thing. I swear they’re the best ones. I take two long swallows off the top of the bottle. grab a beer out of the fridge.

“We could try. does it?” I’m suddenly not mad. I wanted this conversation months ago. “You okay?” I jump. “Will you forgive me?” She’s using her best sad.” “Cass. I don’t want to have this conversation with her. I’m pissed. Cass. I’m not into it. “So. Not after you come out here on the weekend with very little warning and pick through my place for hours. I still love you.” “But Jason. crying. just tired. tonight! She calls me up and asks if I want to try to work things out. you won’t talk about it?” she asks. . “But…” I can hear her start to cry again. Jason. you’re suddenly not? That’s just fucked up. What is that?” I look straight at her as if she’d have some sort of answer for me.” I’m just done. now that you realize I’m okay with it. Bye. Tonight.” She has this tone of desperation in her voice I know not to trust.” Dana would turn it into a game. “Don’t do this.” “So. What kind of stupid game…” I shake my head. Cass. “It doesn’t really matter at this point. I still don’t understand the timing. “No. Not a year after walking out. I’m done. “For a year. I mean. for a whole year I was open to anything. I don’t love you enough to try anymore.right now. I’m hanging up now. This is not the time to talk about reconciliation. Not after you’ve signed papers. “She probably finally realized that she’d lost. I’m all tried out.” I hurl the receiver against the back wall so hard it shatters in satisfying pieces all over the floor. It’s Dana. This is ridiculous. we used to be really good together. and I wonder how long she’s been listening in. “I’m tired. pleading voice.

” She sighs and looks up at me. “I don’t know why you think I know anything. “Thanks. that I can do. . but I take it anyway. She turns back to the fridge and pulls out milk. She’s looking at my face. She laughs. and for just being your overconfident self. and she’s wearing her glasses and her pajamas.” She sounds like this should all be obvious. who isn’t ruffled or bothered by anything.” I smile. Maybe you’d get it better than me. Her chin rests on my shoulder and she puts her hand on my face.” She’s not looking at me. if you wanted her back. it makes a girl crazy. “Besides. I’m more convinced than ever that there are two Danas.” She crosses the room in search of something. but she isn’t looking me in the eyes. Her smooth hair is falling out of her ponytail. Also. As stupid as it is. I pull away to look at her.” She looks like herself—the real girl.” She smiles a little.“But why now? I don’t get it. In seconds she’s peacefully standing there with a bowl full of something that looks like it should be fed to toddlers. I take a step toward her and give her a hug—a pathetic excuse to hold her again. you’d have cut your hair the day before you went to town to meet her in court. “You’re so smooth. noses almost touching. The real girl only comes out when she forgets to pay attention. “You’re a woman. then cereal. She’s rummaging the way she always does.” She looks almost defensive.” I’m still looking at her. Like now. “Well. She sets down her bowl of Fruit Loops and leans into me. we have the same stuff we had last month and nothing’s in a new spot. It’s funny. I’m smiling a little now as she stalks the kitchen. you’re finally okay with all of this. One is the cocky girl.” “Sometimes we don’t know what we have until it’s really gone. “Fruit Loops?” I ask. “For last weekend. That’s not the real girl. Really. “I just wanted something sweet. “Really?” I ask.” “For what?” She asks with a mouthful of cereal. not the day after. “Yes.

I swear she is too—confused. The smashed bits of phone are no longer as satisfying. I sweep up the pieces and throw them away. Cocky Dana is back. I need out of here. .” She’s so close. confused about Dana. “Yeah…” I’m confused. confused about Cass. “Well. I can feel her body and smell her fruity breath. so I step outside into the cold air and head for Boz’s place. I’m down to one now. and pretty much knowing that until Dana leaves. that is. “I’m off to enjoy my dessert. She looks away from me quickly. goodnight!” She pulls away. I start to lean toward her. picks up her bowl of cereal.” My arms drop. I stand alone in the kitchen for a moment. I’m going to feel a little bit screwed. and heads for the stairs.“Thanks to you. I’ll have to add a phone to the Costco list. When I look closely at her. I want to kiss her like I wanted to kiss her the day she cut my hair.

not for any length of time. and watched her broken . and I find it more hysterical than anything else. You’re too nice. huh?” Boz chuckles as I flop down on a ratty green chair in his cabin.” I turn the can in my hands. and I know her well enough to know that she doesn’t know how to be happy yet. “I think Dana got to her this weekend. “You know better than to go back there. “Cass called. “I like Dana well enough. He sits down and pops his can. “It’s your sister. “Yes. Boz is a good guy. but his reaction will already be bad enough.” He’s watching me carefully. that Dana. “Oh no. “I’m in trouble. “Yeah.” He looks up.” I nod in agreement but don’t completely agree. but she’ll chew you up and spit you out. “Play her desperation card?” “Something like that. The smell of marijuana has permeated the place.” I can’t stop my smile when I think about how much fun it was to be close to her.Sometimes Good Friends are Really Damn Annoying “So. “That Dana’s something else.” Boz smiles and hands me a beer.” I run my hands through my hair. “I’m starting to like her. It’s the petty games that make me crazy.” I wonder when our whole mess won’t hurt so much. right?” Boz asks. I hope Dana is asleep before I get back in. you can’t do that.” I smile.” I’m falling for her is what I should say. Jase.” I sigh. “Yeah. I’ve held her while she cried. Boz.” Boz chuckles.

gesturing outwards. I realize that to a lot of guys. I bet she doesn’t even stay in Alaska for long. you might have some fun together…” He wags his eyebrows at me.” “Exactly!” Boz answers.” I nod again. Boz has seen the cocky weekend-girl more than the girl I’m falling for. Dana and I could probably have some fun together. and I don’t really want to be. I read people well enough to know that if I work at it. “And I think Cass has messed with your head. This. .over Craig. at least.” I feel like an ass. I think about Dana. He’s right on that count. Eyebrows? Are we in seventh grade? “She’s not sticking around here. “Though…” Boz looks thoughtful. of course. I sigh.” He leans in a little closer to me. just for a while. makes Boz’s idea more appealing. I think about that small strip of skin and wonder if I can’t change my mind. “It’s perfect. “If you went into it with the same attitude she’s throwing around on the weekends. “All you need right now is a little fun. this is an ideal situation. The problem is that I’ve never been that guy. Jason. spilling a few drops of beer.

DANA
Games. And Then it Gets Real.

As soon as I see Jason walking toward Boz’s cabin, I grab the Wii and haul it downstairs. I ordered it, and Boz brought my package over this morning. Jason needs to lighten up. He needs to have some fun after dealing with the crazy. In less than thirty minutes, I’m driving my pink car around Mario’s track and have another remote and steering wheel next to me—maybe Jason will be less pissed if he’s set up and ready to go. The over-the-top flirtation did nothing to help separate myself from liking him, so I figure we can do something like this. Something juvenile, and then my need for us to stay friends will be saved. I throw my arms in the air after winning the gold cup on mushroom level when Jason walks in. “What the hell is this?” But he’s got a half-smile. “I bought it when we still weren’t getting along?” I offer. Jason shakes his head. “I should have known. How long are you going to use that excuse?” “For as long as I can?” I raise a brow. “Take off your coat so I can kick your ass.” I toss the other remote at him, and he snatches it after sliding an arm out of his sleeve. Fast. “And what makes you think you will kick my ass?” He cocks a brow before tossing his coat onto a hook and jumping over the back of the couch to sit next to me. “Hey.” I smile as nerves at being so close to him settle into my stomach. And really, jumping over a

couch should make him seem more like a kid, and less like a very strong, athletic man whose combined strength and athleticism make for some very interesting possibilities. “Hey,” he answers, a little more serious than I’d like. His eyes rest on mine a little too long, and I’m getting that light, happy, floaty feeling that I’m trying to avoid around him. “You wanna pick the track?” I ask, quickly looking away. “I trust ya. I can kick your ass anywhere.” He elbows me. I laugh a nervous, odd chuckle. Elbows. That’s good. Friend-like. But the electricity of all the things between us zip through me and put me on edge. Halfway through the third lap, I’ve got a fair lead, and then Jason hurls a turtle shell, knocking me over, and allowing him the lead. “What!” I give him a shove as I take off up the track. “You wanted to play.” He jerks the wheel to the right and I grab his arm, rolling Mario off the cliff. “It’s on, now.” His eyes are on the screen, and I’m racing to stay ahead. Then in one quick move, Jason’s slides his arm between my two, while still holding on to his steering wheel. “Who is this going to be worse for?” I jerk slightly left, and his car jerks on the track. “Definitely you.” His grin is mischievous as he gives my arm a bigger jerk, sending my car and princess flying through the air. “Jason!” I pull my arm, but all it does is pull us closer. Suddenly his eyes are on my eyes, and our breath is mixing between us, and all the things I’ve been confused about come together and hit me hard. I want this. Him. Our foreheads nearly touch, and his nose nearly touches my cheek, and our lips nearly brush together. Both of us hovering, waiting, anticipating. A shiver runs through my body as his fingers touch my collarbone and slide behind my neck.

I’m not sure who moves first, but our lips come together. Everywhere Craig was confident and hungry, Jason is slow and deliberate. Every fiber of me is quaking at wanting more of him than he’s giving. His lips brush against mine again, slightly parted this time, and when his tongue lightly teases my lower lip I let out a soft moan, which is a sure sign that I’m no longer in control of what my body wants. His next kiss is thorough and deep, something that could last a girl for days if it needed to because it sends a warmth that courses through my body, and curls my toes. As his fingers slide through my hair, keeping us together, I run my hands through his, kissing him back. Matching him, his softness, his strength. This is what it’s like to kiss the real thing. Holee Hell. Real thing. “I can’t do this.” The words come out before I want them to. Before I want to stop because I never want to stop and that’s running me into dangerous ground. Jason pauses, but doesn’t move away, just rests his warm forehead gently against mine, stroking my hair softly with his fingers. “I just…” He lets out a breath. “I’m not staying, Jason, and you’re not leaving.” “We’d have to be no-strings,” he says quietly. “We can do that.” The problem, and what Jason doesn’t know, is that there are already strings attached because I’m in deeper than I mean to be. And my guess is that Jason’s in even deeper than me. We’re way past no-strings. No-strings is the kind of relationship I wanted when I came to Alaska for my year of fun—great chemistry, and no expectations. If Jason hadn’t been so damn scruffy when I first arrived, maybe we could have based a relationship just on the physical stuff, but we’re way past that now. At least I am. “I can’t do no-strings. Not after Craig.” It’s a lie. I know it’s a lie because my stupidity is the only thing that bothers me from that situation. But I also know that Jason will go for this reason, and then he’ll be the nice guy and let it go. But part of me doesn’t want him to let it go. Part of me wants him to fight, because he’d win.

Jason pulls a little farther away, and when his hands slide off my neck, he runs them through to the ends of my hair, rubbing the strands between his fingers, and sending another round of shivers through me. “Okay.” I lean against the couch and look into Jason’s eyes, wishing to see more than brown. Wishing to see his thoughts, know how he really feels in this moment. “I can’t have things be weird,” I say. He pats the outside of my knee. “No weirdness. No worries. We’re good. People have survived a lot more than a kiss with no weirdness.” “Is it okay that the Wii’s here?” I ask. Jason smirks. “I’m about as good at saying ‘no’ to you as I am to Justine.” “One day I’m going to have to meet this sister of yours.” I try on a smile, but it feels so wrong with the mixed-up, dropped-gut feeling I have right now. “Not if I can help it.” Jason winks. “I’m beat after the weekend. See you sometime around noon tomorrow. If I’m up.” He seems totally unaffected by our kiss, when I don’t think I could stand from the couch. “See you,” I whisper and slouch low in the floral cushions. Why, oh why, did he have to be as good a kisser as I imagined him to be? And why couldn’t I have met him in five years in St. Louis instead of here? And now?

and almost run into Jason when I turn around. “I’m good. Maybe I need more space.” He nods once. I’m pathetic. It’s tense. I pull my hair back.” I glance back at him again and give him a weak smile. but I don’t want this either. Could be okay. We’re adults. Jason’s pouring coffee but turns when I come in. freezing there so he can get by. His face looks strained when I hit the bottom. “Want me to pour you a cup?” he asks from behind me. My lips still feel Jason’s kiss. Seriously. “Coming!” Maybe he’ll have a plan.” I grab the Cocoa Puffs. “Gonna down this and shower. Mostly. and hating how one kiss can change everything. “Dana!” Jason calls from downstairs. Weird. but it’s not a relaxed Jason nod. “What’s up?” I pause at the door to the kitchen. Nearly noon. feeling suddenly not hungry.” And then his eyes are back on his mug. suddenly leary. and set my shoulders in determination to walk down the stairs and into the kitchen. and run into the counter.And Just When I Thought My Situation Couldn’t be More Awkward. and that’s not at all like me. and his damn T-shirt is too tight. Something for us to do so we can get back to normal. but too chicken to go downstairs. I’m also starving. . My cheeks burn as I pour my cereal. “Hey. I don’t want to take the kiss back. “Morning. and I want Cocoa Puffs. which is really. I jump back. really not fair. I trudge back up the stairs. He said there’d be no weirdness. I haven’t been able to sleep all night. Could be weirdness. My stupid heart’s pounding.

” “Thirty minutes!” My heart is racing.” Jason says. rummaging through my clothes until I find my favorite jeans. He acts like he has my best interest at heart. “My brother is more nosy and less caring than my father. could he? “Don’t worry. Isn’t family supposed to be your safe place?” I laugh. “He’s coming by plane.” My heart stops. stupid Keith. I look down. I love my Juicy sweats. “It’s just me. “Your hair is already straight. I slide them on. awkward nod this morning. so there’s no point in picking out a shirt. and just keep my cami on for now. It shouldn’t be this weirdly calm. “He’ll be down in the field in thirty minutes or so.” . I hear footsteps on the stairs and panic.” His voice is way too calm. I still need to do my hair. “It’s your brother. And people aren’t safe places. Stupid. my hair still damp from my shower. Jason’s watching me a little too closely. I take off up the stairs and throw open the door of the Twilight room. I wait for him to continue as my heart starts to beat a little harder.” Jason scratches his head. but I definitely need to clean up a little. Your family. Jason’s face falls a little. Keith couldn’t be here already. I’m not in the mood to be teased right now even though it’s a million times better than the terse.” I throw open my door and sit down on the floor with my straightener. He’s six years older than I am. “He’s on his way. and I need to get ready because I’m making myself crazy.” “Wha…” I don’t even know what to say. but most of me thinks that he uses his age over me to get more in favor with our dad.” Jason has a half smile on his face.“I just got a call from your brother. or a sweater. “Here?” “Yep. I grab my head in both hands.

“I shouldn’t have said all that. but I do. My mother… She’s not really in the picture.” Jason’s eyebrows pull together. and head for the stairs. “People can be the best kind of safe place. Where is his brown-nosing work ethic when I need it? I can’t believe he took the time off to come all the way up here. “Don’t what?” We both hear the airplane then. It must be nervous energy and trying to find some way to dispel some of it. When I graduated from high school. sigh. hoping it’ll dry faster. but he scares me. she made the trip to town. the one I realized I wouldn’t actually need after I arrived.” Jason laughs as he stands up behind me. I continue running the straightener through my long hair. “I got it!” I yell as I take off out the door.” Jason sits on the floor and leans against the frame.” “Not in my experience. step over Jason in my doorway. wearing something that looks perfect for skiing. Crap. I don’t feel like I could ever do enough. and we had a brief dinner together and that’s it. I stand up. “I love my dad. I don’t know why I keep talking. I haven’t seen her since. and I was all excited go out with her.” “Why not?” “I don’t…” I don’t want anyone’s pity. turn around and dash back into my room. Stupid Keith. Keith climbs out of the plane.” I say. I stop. I had it good. not snowmachining— .“They can be. The travel alone will cost him two days. jump on Jason’s snowmachine and head down the hill to pick up my brother. and make my way around Jason who’s still in my doorway. “You might want clothes. “Want me to drive down there with you? Or walk?” he asks. I find my gray cashmere sweater.

and I grab the throttle so we can make it up the hill. I have to climb on behind you on that thing?” He looks over at the snowmachine. I feel his arms go from tight to tighter.” I shake my head. I know that my attitude toward this place has softened…a lot. I look behind him at the plane. “Jason. “Hey. and I laugh. We stop at the top of the hill and he climbs off.” I smile wide. he’s probably your age. “Yeah. “Yep. Family. Not too small for an Alaskan bush plane.” He tries to laugh a little. this is his place. It actually does feel a little good.” Jason smiles as we walk closer.” I agree. stumbling once. Then he looks around. “It’s a gorgeous flight up here. which is already taxiing away from us. If I’m being honest with myself. “So. “Hold on!” I holler after starting the machine. “What a dump.” I try to smile and downplay. heart still flying. “Even though the plane felt too small to fly.” I nod and take a deep breath.” Keith raises a brow. and also maybe to scare my brother. and I’m glad we’re far enough from the front door that Jason probably can’t hear. It looks like a four-seater from here. I’m also glad my ribs are healed up. This is going to be great. Keith. “It’s not that bad. His warm smile makes me forget my annoyance with him. “That’s not the draw.” I laugh harder—a nervous cackling kind of laugh that I really hope my brother doesn’t pick up on. I really need to calm down. brown hair hangs over his brow a little. “Ah… So that’s the draw. . and his straight.” He’s still staring at the machine. “No. “Wow. “Jason?” I laugh.” Just then Jason opens the front door and waves. I step back on and Keith climbs up behind me slowly. and I’m sure feels the same thing I felt upon first arriving.fancy sweater and a light jacket with too many zippers. “Come on in. the landscape is beautiful.” He steps toward me and pulls me into a hug.” Keith shifts his bag on his shoulder.

It really irritates me because he has never once apologized or even acknowledged how his friends messed with me. and I gesture for him to come sit down.” Keith walks in the front door.” Keith is unflinching. Keith looks disbelieving. “Since when are you a beer drinker?” “Since when are you?” I look at him as he pops off the top. “Well. which is really nice of him. He’s working too hard. His eyes are on me.” I stare at him. how about the fact that I don’t want to go?” He’s not Dad.” I laugh a little as Jason sits down. he looks older.” “That’s crazy. I know he knows about Clive. and I glance over his shoulder to see Jason. and I can smell pizza.” Keith folds his hands together on the table. I got a call from the DA not long ago. and try to look away. Every time I see my brother. Keith’s back is to the kitchen. “How was the trip up?” Jason asks as he shows Keith where to hang his coat. seeing you drink. “Just weird. “Well. but he has more power over me than I’d like. The defendant is working hard to get a trial right away and so if I left. and he . “Long. I feel this pressure around him to be stronger.” I shrug. I’d just have to come back. and worry starts to prick at me. “I also don’t want to leave Jason in the lurch. There’s no privacy up here anyway. that’s all. better. Jason walks back into the kitchen. He’s brought three beers. “What on earth are you doing here?” I ask as we sit down across from each other at a table. “How many of your parties was I invited to and offered drinks when I was way underage?” He shakes his head—dismissing me like always. He hands one to me that I open and start drinking.“Thanks. “I don’t see how that’s a problem.” Keith smiles. “Hoping to convince you to come back home. but Keith’s got me locked in. and I’m relieved when I see that he only has a small pack— this means he’ll probably only stay one night.

” I add this. “Don’t let him get to you.” “If I was interested.” I wait for his eyes to meet mine.” “It grows on you. He was accepted to Oxford. It would have been the perfect opportunity for Jason to brag a little. It’s done.” “I think Jason’s growing on you. “When did you get to be such a snob?” I narrow my eyes and watch his reaction closely. How would that be terrible. I can see that we’re not going to get anywhere.” Jason answers simply. “Don’t think it. He looks at me carefully. “He’s done all the training for the FBI so I’m very protected.” Keith whispers.” He looks at me with wide eyes and his head cocked. Jason. Keith?” I whisper and hope Jason can’t hear us from in front of the oven. I do instead. Keith looks between us a few times. like he does with everything he doesn’t want to deal with. “I’ll get the pizza. “Wow. and I’m realizing that I’ve probably offended him in some way with everything that’s come out of my mouth since Keith got here.” I laugh a little at Jason who is purposefully not looking at me.” I follow his eyes around the room.” Keith’s gaze is on him now. Maybe I just crossed a line. “How’d you end up way out here?” “I like it. Jason here I think is still officially married. this place needs a lot of work.” I’ll need to thank him later. “So. He takes a deep breath. IF.” . I glance up several times between Keith and the kitchen. knowing my brother wanted to go there. but he doesn’t take it. “Well. Keith. “We’re not that way.brushes it off.” I suddenly feel bad. “And it suits its purpose. “Nope. Maybe it’ll be enough for Jason and me to step away from each other because I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t want a repeat of our kiss.” Jason tries to laugh as he stands and moves toward the kitchen. I take another drink of my beer for something to do. “You’ve got to be kidding me. “Jason’s degree is from Yale. “Or to be started over.” Keith looks around.

” I drain mine on my way back to the kitchen.” Everything about Keith is more rushed.” Jason sets the pizza down just in time. “Probably not. I breathe in the coffee and take a drink. Jason is already awake with coffee. “So.“Nope. Keith. and if I need to be. and Jason being the good guy. and I show Keith to a room upstairs and flop on my purple bed. To make sure you’re not lying. “I’m not fifteen.” I stand.” “I have to head back tomorrow anyway. I knew this would be a disaster.” he says quietly.” And now that we’re back to Dana being a mess. . Jason serves the normal stuff to customers. I’m not ready to joke about my brother. I’m smart. and to make sure that your safety and your rights are protected. but there it is. I’m well taken care of. I have an appointment with the DA on my way back home. “I think I need another beer. I’m a strange mix of angry and worried about him. I’m not sure how I feel about being the whiny girl again. “Excuse me.” “Yeah. our awkwardness over the kiss is gone. “You two look alike. I get up early to shower and look presentable before Keith’s up. I guess. impatient than last time I saw him.” “What for?” I’m angry at the intrusion. “To make sure he knows what he’s doing. that was fun last night. I’m competent. “I don’t know. and I’m half-tempted to see if I have another Percocet hanging around.” I agree. We finish dinner without speaking much.” I say flatly. but I’ve learned to let him make coffee for us in the mornings because he uses his private stash. Where is this coming from? I’m an adult. I throw him a look. “You okay?” he asks as he leans against the counter. Not yet.

“I am perfectly capable of watching out for myself. but I lean against Jason from the side. I feel tense. but closes it again. too. Even he realizes this is a little awkward. frustrated guy who came to visit. “Fine. Keith. “Let’s get you out of here. He’s really grateful Dana’s doing this.” Keith helps himself to a coffee and sits up on the counter next to me. “Last chance to head back to civilization. Mitchum’s a smart guy. .” I fold my arms. you know?” Jason kisses the top of my head in a gesture that feels like an equal mix of friendly concern. He has a lot of ammo to shoot down that statement of mine.” I slide my arm through Keith’s. “I know. Though. but want him to think I’m totally comfortable with the situation. I’m relieved.I’m not sure why I think it’s a good idea.” His shoulders fall slightly in resignation. resting my head on his shoulder. “What?” Jason asks. and pushing boundaries that I sort of want pushed. Dana.” I lay the sarcasm on thick. Jason laughs a little. I’ll send you an email when I’m done with the DA. you two. There’s nothing else to do. “I wouldn’t bother. and he’ll be sure to watch out for her.” Jason opens his mouth to say something. and I step away.” I smile. There’s a small part of me that loves this small gesture—a sign that my brother is still inside this tired.” “Not you. No reason to give Keith any more ideas about Jason and me. “Oh yes. I still have no idea where I fall on Jason and me. “Morning. “It’s supposed to be fun to get together. Mitchum Paris at the DA’s office so he’s going to go check on his work.” I glance over my mug at Jason and quickly take another sip before finishing.” Jason jerks as Keith’s footsteps echo down the stairs. looking at Keith.” “People up here are civilized…most of the time. We all hear the plane at the same time. “Keith has decided that his law degree is far superior to that of Mr.

“No.” “No. but one that leaves me wondering about a million different things—how I feel about Jason. and I lean into him in a way I haven’t in a long time. and starts to slowly spin it in a circle on the tabletop. The plane is landed and waiting. leaving the snowmachine behind. . Keith.” I slide on my coat. and not something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to. I think about my time here and how much I’m starting to enjoy myself.” He opens his laptop and starts typing away. Sister. Even if I could go to my house in Anchorage. you know how to reach me. Keith is right.” Family is nice even if they irritate the crap out of you. His fiancé probably isn’t much of a threat to me in my normal daily stuff. “Love you. I need distraction.” I try to look relaxed and like it’s not a big deal. How maybe I do. and we walk down the hill. “Okay. A quick visit. How maybe I don’t have to leave. and a family to push out of my mind. “But when you change your mind…” “If. emails to check. and sit down in front of my computer. but then he grasps his mug a little tighter.” I squeeze his arm tighter. Then it hits me that I don’t really have to be here. Brother. but I do know how to reach your voicemail. how maybe I should relax and enjoy my experience up here more. “Is it okay that I’m still here?” “Why? Do you want to leave?” He looks relaxed and comfortable. Too much.” Keith hugs me tight. The defendant is in jail. put on my glasses. too. “Love you. As soon as his plane takes off I go back inside. I have work to do. how I feel about going home. I didn’t see him come in. How is it possible that I’m choosing to stay up here? “What are you thinking about so intently?” Jason smiles a little over his cup of coffee.“Fine. I don’t know that I want to.” He exhales. I don’t know how to reach you. change into something comfy. “If you change your mind.

that was easy. and I wonder what he’s working on now. I also.Well. I want to dig through his writing files again and see if there’s anything else in there that’s finished. Are we too far past a no-strings arrangement? Or is it something we could try? . maybe want to try for something different. He’s intent right away.

because the kiss… Even better than I thought it’d be. with his background. it’s probably not the best idea. I’m sure if I were him. I flip my laptop shut and rub my eyes a few times. . and she practically glows. Only it isn’t Boz. She smells edible. I shake my head like an idiot struck dumb. A knock at my door makes me start. Dana’s been scarce since her brother left. it’s all I think about when she’s around. “I just want to talk for a sec. and Justine ended out in a place like this. He’s a good guy. I’d be worried too. and I’ve spent way too much time thinking about what it would be like to be with her since she arrived. and part of me wonders if she’s just here to torture me.JASON I Have NO Idea What the Hell I’m Doing I still don’t know what to think of Keith. The fire is the only light in the room. After writing all evening. My apartment is warm. I guess. I stand back and let her step inside. Dana’s in my doorway—damp hair. No bra. It took everything in me not to ask again last night if she was sure she wanted to pull away. Now that I’ve touched her. expecting Boz. and as much as I’d like to hang out with her. or…” But she trails off. and I strain to hear it again before moving and grabbing the handle. Low riding pajama bottoms. even just briefly. and brushes her hair behind her. “Am I bothering you?” she asks quietly. closing the door behind her. but feels weirdly empty.

“Look. and she leaves it there. and cover her mouth with mine. so afraid that this will backfire worse than the kiss. Jase…” But she’s still not looking at me. just doing. How the hell am I supposed to tell her no when every cell in my body says something different? Part of me is pretty sure this is a trick. “We’re both adults. Dana’s arms wrap around my neck as our tongues continue to slide together. Her eyes find mine. which she’s sure to do. “Yep. or at the very least.She stands too close to me for me to think.” Only I don’t know how to tell her that at twenty-five. staring. my fingers sliding over her smooth skin. Like Dana is actually afraid. Her breasts touch my chest first. I don’t know what makes me do it. No-strings. and then her stomach to mine. She feels too good. Dana breathes in. my body reacting in all the ways that mean I’ll need a cold shower as soon as she takes off. The longer she stands here. and my guess is she’s putting up a lot more certainty than she feels. Just touching . because her hands are half clasped together. and there’s no thinking. Why is she here? Her eyes find mine. stupid! about the time I turn my brain off. I move in but stop. I still don’t feel grown-up. and I swear she’s even closer. We’re as close as we were last night. and her hips to mine.” Her hand touches my chest. I think we both know you can’t feel this much and just walk away the next day. and she’s practically begging me to kiss her. My heart starts hammering. or nervous. Something in my brain screams. it sends waves through my body. but my hand hovers next to her shoulder. but I don’t know that I care. “You said it first. and she’s not completely still. the more I want her.” she says like she’s trying to convince herself. a really bad idea. When my hands tighten around her lower back.

and half the Dana pushing back her messy hair and wearing glasses. She’s smiling wide when my shirt drops to the floor. “Not too fast. I slide my hands up her smooth sides. trying to be careful. Women are so damn incredible. but her lips part. This is supposed to be fun. I’m pretty sure I smile back. My whole body is tensed in anticipation so I let it take over.” I grin as I crawl onto the bed between her legs as her tank slides over her head. She sees this. already breathless.her like this. We topple over on my bed as we struggle out of our last bits of clothing. amazed I get to touch her like this. and she starts to pull it off. She probably sees a lot of me that I’d rather keep to myself. and then stops when I can see the smallest bit of the underside of her breasts. She chuckles a little as I smile and step closer. Dana runs her hands through my hair. and I kiss the softness of her skin from just below her belly button up between her breasts. and I reach in the nightstand and fumble around for a condom while Dana kisses across my back. but there’s also something real. Wanting this so bad. If this is how we’re doing it. I let go of a tiny bit of my caution. Her hands are on the bottom of her tank. bringing our bodies together.” I tease. The stupid things are in here . I lean forward and again. “I take it back. She pulls away enough to smile at me like she’d planned the whole thing. Dana’s not so careful with me. if she wants to try no-strings—I want to let go and enjoy it. But also wanting to enjoy all the little moments before we get there. settling it back down. and now the uncertainty she had when she first got here is gone. and I deepen our kiss. tugging on my T-shirt until she pulls it over my head inside out. Her tank rides up slowly. Rip the damn shirt off.” There’s always part of me holding back. press my lips to hers. Jase. lift her from just under her ass and set her on my bed. and my hair’s sticking up in all crazy directions. Her. Her soft skin burns against mine. “Time to loosen up. This is half the Dana from the weekends. and happy. softly at first. Dana laughs a little again.

opens her mouth on mine and kisses me. It’s been way too long. I grab her and tackle her down on my bed. pulling. both hands on my chest. She puts the condom on faster than I could have done and makes me half insane with my need for her in the process. I finally get one separated from the rest. Her hands slide down my stomach and they’re on me then. across her collarbone. She leans over for one more kiss. My eyes close. Everything on Dana looks smooth. She opens the small package with her teeth. I kiss her shoulders. It’s a long strip of them. The light from the fire flickers across her slim body. smiling. until we’re on our knees facing one another. Her body moves closer. I’m out of breath and realizing that I’m probably totally outclassed here. ever had. I feel great. I want to put my mouth on everything. more slowly this time. but too turned on to care. and I want to start all over. I can’t imagine anything sexier than she is right now. She’s now biting up my neck and laughing at my fumblings. It feels like we’re together for hours.somewhere. tongue first. I put my hands on her small waist to pull her to me. biting. which makes it okay. and sleep takes me under almost immediately. but it’s her. I run my fingers up and down her sides. Exactly what I’ve needed for way too long. . Dana pushes me up. I finally pull one out. She smiles at me again. I touch or kiss all the parts of her that I’ve been thinking about since watching the small strip of pale skin on her lower back. grabbing. Like I need something to make me feel inadequate at this moment. It is like no sex I’ve ever. I reach out my arm and brush the back of my hand over her stomach—needing to touch her in some way. leans forward. before reaching down. and she takes it from me. and I lose my breath. kissing. I can’t see. pulling the sheet up over her chest and closing her eyes. her perfect handful-sized breasts. Boz was right. letting her breasts touch my chest. but it isn’t just one. Her naked body lies next to me. I needed this. Relaxed.

I’m a disaster. That would be better for my plan to not get crushed by this. Her eyes change. I can feel a horrible end coming. but I’m not sure how it works if you’re doing this together but don’t want more. I can barely breathe waiting to see what she’ll do. It’s probably not a good idea to slide in behind her and put my face in her hair. this one. I look up at her bare back as she sits next to me. but hit me hard. I know my bed is more comfortable than that old twin upstairs. I’m an idiot. She sits undecided for a moment. There she is. . If she walks away now. This thing is huge. What am I doing to myself here? I’m an ass for not feeling like this is enough and an ass for lying here wishing I wasn’t afraid to pull her into my arms and fall asleep in her hair. I feel it in my chest—this is the girl that’s going to destroy me.” I’m such a girl. Dana. I’m a total cad. that’s it. Not the overconfident flirt. “I should go. Someone needs to give me a good hit in the gut. and I’m diving in anyway. and she sits up. I don’t want her to go. and I promise not to get mad if you kick me because I’m snoring. You won’t even know I’m here. I don’t want to seem anxious so I flop back onto my pillow and roll over. so fast… But I don’t get to finish my thought. I take a deep breath and try hard to find the guy who’d just wanted to get laid.I feel Dana move and turn my head to look at her. I breathe in wondering if I can still smell her shampoo. the one with such depth and feeling that I could fall so hard. Maybe this makes me a jerk. It’s no big deal. “Come on. I guess she finally realizes I’m not moving in and lies down. The words are simple. I prop myself up on an elbow and laugh.” She sounds so normal. I should want her to run upstairs and get away from me. so nonchalant that you’d think we were in here playing cards together. her large brown eyes looking at me. And the worst part about it is that I know it.

.

grabs Dana on the ass as she walks by on her way to the kitchen. but unfortunately. I know Boz is right. in cabin number five… It’s awesome. but whatever’s going on between us gets better. it’s as explosive as it was the first night. Suddenly I can’t touch her anytime I want. Just when I step out from behind the counter to say . but Dana doesn’t even slow down. Instead we’re subtle. and I worry that everything will change. I want to talk to her. This is for right now. and I took it. If you can keep him from drinking he’s a pretty nice. More than once I have to shift my pants. she rolls to the far side of the bed. beer goes with everything.Sometimes It’s Awesome to be Envied by Every Other Guy in the Room Dana and I spend the next couple of days shamelessly flirting and spending time in my bed. and I don’t even care. The guy is a prick after one beer. like an idiot. We can’t get enough of each other. She came to me asking for no-strings. And then just like every night for the past few nights. To ask her what she expects. what she wants. Dana’s not sticking around. in my shower. I tense up. the guy who brings me a lot of business. even though we’re exhausted from the day. and her body slumps as she falls asleep next to me. and every look. “Real” Dana is on vacation. or discreet brush makes me know what’s going to happen later. and it’s been way too long since I’ve been with someone and feeling like we’ll never get enough of the other. The crowds start to show up for the weekend. Her breathing slows. what this is. in my bathtub. Brock. and again. I stare at her curves and wonder what it would take to turn our fun into something more. faces the wall and goes to sleep. and I really need to relax and enjoy it before it’s over. in his world. and stand at the stove longer than necessary for things to settle back into place. But at the same time. When we’re finally alone.

We’re getting along during the day. I mean. Her ever getting old. Her back is toward me and I stare at the smooth curve of her sides. Jason.” I don’t hesitate in putting my hands on her sides and letting them slide around the back and underneath my boxers. very naked Dana to my bed.” Three tables worth of guys look my direction and the room goes quiet. which I hold until I’m once again. . If that makes her life here easier.” She pulls the waistband out far enough for me to know she has nothing on underneath. I’m all for being envied.” She cocks a hip out to the side. Boz raises a questioning brow.” she comments.” When I step in my room on Sunday night. having fun at night. She turns back toward me. huh?” Boz sighs. I can’t imagine this ever getting old. really they could just fall off. carrying a very perfect. “I’m glad you didn’t try on anything else. He doesn’t even have to ask. “Nope. “Yes. I just laugh and shake my head. hey. “I can help with that. just these and they’re pretty big. I just nod once and smile. and this situation is feeling pretty ideal. Dana spins to face him. Boz is a different matter. I turn away and begin loading the washer. “Even better than you thought it’d be.” I start toward her. I cannot believe that I get to touch this woman the way I do. “And?” He raises an eyebrow. giving me full view. gives me her best smile and disappears into the kitchen. “You have a lot of clothes in here that I bet you never wear.” I say. He’ll know. “Only Jason is allowed to touch me like that. When I make my way to start dishes. The boxers slide off and she wraps a leg around me. “You’re a damn lucky man. Dana’s standing in front of my closet wearing nothing but a pair of my boxers. They can think whatever they want. running her hand over my crotch as she walks by. She turns around then. “Hey.something.

giving her elbow a resting place on her knee. Her glasses frame her hazel eyes. She looks both comfortable. Dana disappears. but I kind of want the girl in her favorite sweats. . “I’ll be done in a few. “You okay?” I ask. One of her feet’s on the bench next to her.” She smiles a little. She moves her face away from mine. It’s not the thing to do. but it’s also like she doesn’t see me. “Just need to finish an email to my dad.” “It’s fine. “Didn’t mean to wake you.” I press my face against hers and kiss her cheek. We were good all weekend. She seems distant somehow.” She glances back to her computer. put my chin on her shoulder and slide my arms around her. Dana doesn’t notice me until I’m close. Really good. tight jeans and very smooth and shiny hair. to tell me what’s going on with her.” I stand up slowly and head to the kitchen for coffee. I want her to talk to me. She’s wearing a smirk on her face that tells me what she wants. She relaxes into me for about two seconds before stiffening and pulling away. She’s back to a tiny shirt. and gorgeous and messy all at one. When I see her again the glasses and sweats are gone. Her glasses come off immediately. I cross the room.Dana’s gone when I roll over in the morning. I’m so screwed. and I stumble into the main lodge to see her perched on her favorite table. I sit down next to her. and her lips purse together a few times as she reads on her computer. “Yep. Before I think.

As soon as we pull into Costco. The silence is stabbing at my brain and making me a bit crazy so I turn on the radio and crank it loud enough that no one feels the need to talk. it might be nice if the lodge had some of my regular food. I start to realize how stupid it all sounds. Or maybe Keith’s right. even though I know I should. and I have to say something. And I swear that I thought if maybe we slept together a few times.” “I’m glad you’re here. it’s…weird. and it’s time I leave Alaska. The silence is killing me.DANA I Have No Idea What the Hell I’m Doing I agreed last week to go to Anchorage with Jason. . “Thanks for letting me tag along. and not in his bed. My house is there. But now that Jason and I are in the car. This is why Jason and I shouldn’t have started this whole crazy thing. and just hope I’m left alone by the defendant’s family.” Jason smiles too wide. and we ride in silence. Exactly what I didn’t want. and I’m not at all ready for Keith to win. Maybe I should stay in Anchorage. or his shower. The problem is that it feels like Keith wins if I leave. It’s that I wanted him at the time —really. or cabin number five. Three hours one way. and I look away. The car bumps down Petersville road toward the highway. I’m also not completely ready to leave Jason behind. As the thought goes through my head. and I want to check on it. it would get him out of my system or something. It seemed like a good thing for us to do together. until neither of us spoke. Also. really wanted him. Jason pulls out a two-page list.

and then a small part of me wants him to stop and breathe in my hair like he does. “Great. We’ll figure it out. if he was acting as crazy as I am. “And a Pepsi. so I don’t want it. and they don’t sell that at the concession stand.” Jason’s brows come together like he’s confused. “Finally come to bail me out. because I’m really trying to keep away from that. and I’m not totally sure why.” He laughs through a mouthful.” After I took care of everything else. too?” Jason with his wonderfully. another random attempt to make being around him okay. I’d probably be confused too. feeling this sort of urgent desperation.” I narrow my eyes and try to tease. because I want it. relaxed smile.” Jason takes a huge bite out of the top. I got you a corndog. “Thanks. “Will you have room if I buy a few things.” Jason shrugs. huh?” Jason laughs as he pulls two large carts. “I figured you’d be tired by now. perfect. which are near to overflowing. . Get whatever you want. a ridiculous mess because I don’t know what to do with him now that we’re sleeping together. “I had no idea what kind of soda you like. And me.” I point. By the time I leave. “It is a shame.” “It’s a shame. and clasp our hands together. I’m driving myself crazy. but I really want it loaded before he finishes so he can’t talk me out of it. but it all means too much. “The truck’s big. Jason will be glad to see me go. and I bolt. and also tell him thank you without being girl-friend like. I just know you like beer. And then the perfect idea hits me. “I’ll pick up my few things and then I’ll find you.“Wow.” I bump his arm with my elbow. I decide I need to surprise Jason.” I plaster on a pretend smile.

I slide my arm through his. if you’re too afraid. looking baffled. “For giving me a place to stay. “I cannot. I don’t—” “Just promise me you’ll put them in. .” “I’m not afraid. We haul several thousand dollars of groceries and paper products out to the truck. I’m almost done. “Well. It needs to be done.” And before I let myself think.” “I hate wiring. What is he thinking? Do I want to know? He looks away quickly. “You bought me light fixtures?” “Consider it a thank you gift.” I try to tease. and then you can show me your house on our way back out of town.” “I’d love that.Jason’s eyes are on mine. I mean cannot look at those wagon wheels for another weekend. Jason stops when he sees the six large boxes I already brought out. Not too weird.” I lean in close. I will. once again tightening my chest. “I got you new light fixtures.” And then I have to busy myself with loading his Costco run into the truck before he and I have some other kind of awkward moment. “Then I’m doing it.” I hold in a smile.” “Well. We’re okay. I didn’t mean for it to be such a big gesture. “Yeah.” I nod once.” He stops. but he really looks sort of overwhelmed.” “Dana… It’s too much. “What on earth?” He runs a hand through his hair.

Oh. She’s good.

Jason’s phone rings on our way to check on my house. He rolls his eyes as he picks up. “My little sister,” he explains. I pull up my knees and stare out the window, wondering if there’s going to be any end of my confusion about Jason and around Jason. “What do you want, Justine?” he answers. “Hey, Jase!” She sounds way too happy, and I realize in close quarters like this, I’m going to be able to hear every word. “Where are you? Boz said you went to town.” She’s about to ask for something big. Jason and I lock eyes for a moment—we both feel the same thing coming. “I’m still in town, but we’re about to head out.” He flicks his turn signal, and we start into my neighborhood. “Oh! Perfect!” She sounds thrilled. “Hi, Dana!” she yells. Jason cringes away from the phone. “Justine! Warn me before you yell in my ear, please.” “Sorry.” I can hear shuffling on her end, and a voice say something about a boarding pass. “Justine? What are you doing?” Only I’m pretty sure both Jason and I know what she’s doing. “I’m coming to visit you! I just got on the plane!” she says brightly. “Oh, she’s good.” I laugh. “Justine. Do not get on that plane. I’m done in Anchorage. I’m headed back out. There will be no one here to pick you up. Do you understand me? No one will be here to get you.” If I’m not convinced next to him, no way Justine is. “Excuse me, Ma’am?” she asks someone on her end. “Could you please tell my brother where I am?”

“You’re in 21 C,” the woman answers. “Thank you so much.” I’m laughing quietly in the passenger’s seat. This is definitely something I would pull. “Justine. Get off the plane.” Jason’s voice has dropped, but he won’t follow through. “They don’t let you do that anymore, silly.” I can tell she’s trying not to laugh. “Not since 9/11. You can blame those guys, not me.” “That was me at seventeen,” I say. “Well, that was me a year ago.” Jason shakes his head is resignation, but at the same time a small smile is pulling at the corners of his mouth. “Love you, Jase! I’ll see you in a little over an hour.” And then she hangs up. Jason throws his phone into the cup holder. “Shit.” I let myself laugh. “Guess we can take our time at my house, huh?” “Guess we can.” Jason sighs, but again, I don’t think he’s mad.

My house is done. Perfect. Everything up the way I wanted and picked out the way I wanted done. It looks sterile right now. Clean, and without character except the modern character I put into the fixtures, and flooring, and sparse cream furnishings. Jason and I stand in the middle of the living room, and it’s not… Just not what I expected. “You miss being here?” Jason asks. “Not really.” It’s so strange. Before ending up at the lodge, I used this house as my draw to stay, but it no longer feels that way. “I thought I would.” I open my mouth to tell him about how I don’t feel attached to the place anymore, even though I picked all this out. I set up the new layout, and the new trimmings. I looked forward to coming home to this house every day after work, and now I don’t remember why. But

it’s all too deep, hitting me in places that are swirling in confusion right now. “It turned out pretty great, huh? I should probably sell it.” “And do what?” Jason asks. I turn and face him, realizing how very deep I’m in with him. Right now I want him to tell me that a relationship with no strings is no kind of relationship. That he wants me here, even though it’s the most illogical thing I can imagine. Even though I don’t think I can tell my dad no, and I might not even want to. My heart swells at the way he’s looking at me, and instead of walking away, I step into his arms. He’s still for the briefest moment and then slides his hands around the lowest part of my waist. Instead of leaning up for a kiss, I rest my head on his shoulder. So much hovers between us, even though we’re pressed together. We’ve set ourselves up for failure with one another, and I hate how that feels. “I don’t know what this is anymore.” I back away from him and move toward the door, keeping my eyes anywhere but on him. “It’s okay, Dana. I knew you weren’t staying. I promise you there will be no hard feelings on this end.” His words sort of stun me. I really was arrogant enough to think that Jason felt more for me than that. That part of him wanted more, even though he didn’t say it. But now… He sounds so sure of himself. That’s all this is. Hooking up for convenience sake. And the thing is, that’s all I wanted. I wouldn’t have touched him if it weren’t for that arrangement, so why does it feel so callous now? “So yeah,” I say as I lock the door, keeping my eyes firmly on the keys. “I should sell it and move on.” I wait for Jason to offer for me to finish up the year with him. Go to Hawaii with him, but he’s silent as we walk back toward his truck. My eyes fill with hot tears, and I want to slap myself for wanting something that I know right now I can’t have. I’m feeling strange being at my house, that’s all. “When we get to the airport, you get out. Justine can ride the hump in the middle of the bench seat on

the way back.” Jason starts up the truck. “She probably just got mad at Mom and Dad and is going to try and hide out here. I really hate that.” He doesn’t want me to sit next to him. I’m not sure what to think about anything from today. I don’t want to be weak. Don’t want to sound weak, but I have to ask. “Is it okay that I’m still at the lodge?” Jason pulls to the side of the neighborhood street, and touches his fingers to my chin. “Of course, it’s okay.” And a few moments ago I wanted something more from him, and now that I’m getting it, it scares me again. I’ve got some serious damage. I manage to squeak out a “thanks.” He looks conflicted for a moment, but drops his hand. “You’ll love Justine.” I sort of do already.

“I’m assuming this is because of you so thank you. I don’t move when Dana gets out.” Justine flashes me a smile as she climbs in and kisses me on the cheek. Justine can take back her purple Twilight room. I really want Dana with me. bro.JASON None of This is Working Out. I wonder again how we’re going to work sleeping arrangements. I nod in response. it’s a hard place to sit for that many hours. Dana is smiling as she looks back and forth between us. “Your hair!” Justine is beaming again. Yep. Dana opens the door of the truck and steps into the cold. As much as I’d love to have her leg pressed against mine during the drive. “You must be Dana!” She throws her arms around Dana. “Thanks. Dana looks a little bewildered but laughs as Justine lets her go.” Justine smiles again as I put the truck into gear and pull out. “Can we hit Taco Bell on the way out of town? I’m starving. When we stop at the airport. We have a truck full of stuff. “I’m glad somebody is around to make him crazy when I can’t. “See? I’m not even going to complain about riding the hump all the way back. She looks at Dana. I motion for Dana to get out. At All.” She smiles widely again. Justine doesn’t need to know I’m happy to see her. .” “No. no no! You should have eaten before you came!” I’m exasperated. my first thought was right. “Hi!” Justine looks like this is the most normal thing in the world and we’d all planned to meet together like this in Anchorage and oh my gosh isn’t this the most fun thing ever? Justine and I look the most alike—though she has lighter hair and pale little freckles we all tease her about. They’re going to get along great and torture me together—just in very different ways.” Then she turns back to me.

” But just like when I’m annoyed at Justine. her head resting on my shoulder. “Seriously. It’s so boring during the week. horrible ex-wife. It’s already dark. She looked like she was going to hyperventilate at her house. and all I could think of was to reassure her that I know she’s not ready to have a real relationship. still feeling confused. She talks about me and how I was in high school. I have given up on having any control over the direction of the conversation and let the . I pull through the Taco Bell drive thru. and I’ll either be taking loads in all night or both of you will be awake with me bright and early in the morning to haul all this stuff in. Justine and Dana grin at each other again. I want her tucked underneath my arm. I’m in so much trouble. and it reminds me again of how much I like her. Now I really wish I had her next to me. I look back to the road. She talks about my ‘snobby’ college friends and my stupid. and we order almost thirty bucks worth of Taco Bell and Mountain Dew—not an easy feat. what is all that stuff?” “I got new lights. Justine goes on and on about her friends in Juneau and the people she misses in Palmer. sir. I’m not really annoyed. That I can do the nostrings thing I know she needs. “Awesome!” I shake my head. “Finally!” Justine dramatically puts her hand to her chest.and we’re already hours behind when I thought we’d be leaving town. “Yes. Jase. and I’m okay with that. Dana’s eyes are on me.” I grumble.” Justine gives me a mock salute and giggles. unless I just go along with them.” “What?” I say at the same time my sister says. “Un-freakin’-believeable. I smile and Dana smiles softly back at me. even though I’m way past feeling that little.” “And he doesn’t know it yet but I also got a few more games for the Wii I snuck in. “I’ve been begging him to do that forever. “We’re not going to make it back until close to midnight. making me realize that any decisions to be made are going to be two on one.” Dana says.

girls talk and giggle for the nearly three hours to the far parking lot. Boz, the great friend that he is, meets us with a snowmachine and two large trailers. Between that and the Sno-Trac, which is like a big Jeep on track wheels, we barely cram everything in, but we make it. The Sno-Trac is a much slower ride to the lodge than the machines, but we’ll only have to do it once. Fortunately the thing is so loud it makes it difficult for Dana and Justine to talk. They’re suddenly silent. This is good because the chances of me hearing what they say to one another isn’t great in this thing, and I definitely need to know what’s being said between the two girls.

Now I Have Two Spoiled Girls to Worry About – And the Wrong One is in my Room

“So, when someone uses your sister’s room, she just sleeps with you, right?” Dana asks quietly as we step inside the lodge. She doesn’t let any hint of what she’s thinking slip out. “Um…yeah.” I nod. Then I swallow. I don’t want this to work out that way. “But—” “All right, well I’m off to bed.” Her voice is too loud. “It was nice to meet you, Justine.” She smiles at my little sister and heads up the stairs. I stand at the bottom of the stairs like an idiot watching her go. Shit. My shoulders slump. “I’m wiped.” And irritated and definitely not getting laid tonight. “Me too.” Justine follows me to my apartment with her pack. “You get the couch.” I point once we step inside. “But your bed is huge!” she protests. “You called me, remember? If we’re not having sex, you don’t get to sleep in my bed. That’s Jason’s rule.” I head for the bathroom. “So, does Dana get to sleep there?” she sings behind me. “Mind your own business.” I brush my teeth and flop into bed. This is not at all how I wanted to spend my night. “Why are you here, Justine?” I ask as she turns out the light. She sighs. “I just needed away for a while.” And I have this realization that Justine does the same thing as Dana. There’s the “real” Justine, like now, and then there’s the “public” Justine that nothing bothers. I still don’t know what to do with either of them—the Justines or the Danas. “Mom and Dad know where you are.” Really, I should have called Mom as soon as Justine called me.

“Yeah and I even sent them a text to tell them I landed safely. We both know your phone would be ringing if I didn’t.” She sounds so smug. “What happened?” Something set her off. She would have planned a visit otherwise. “Just arguments with friends and sometimes I need space.” She’s trying too hard. “Fine,” I say. “Let me know when you’re actually ready to tell me.” “Night, Jason.” “Night, Justine.” “Thank you.” “You owe me.” But we both know it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t take Justine long to nod off, despite her earlier protests about sleeping on the couch. I sigh. Wait, a smile starts to spread across my face. I can just sneak up the stairs and see if Dana’s still awake. I slide out from underneath the covers and walk slowly and carefully out of my apartment. My body tenses with anticipation as I get closer, but when I open her door Dana’s already asleep. The tension drops out of me, and is replaced with something a lot warmer. I lean against the doorframe for a moment, wishing I could crawl in with her, that I could pull her close to me and fall asleep. That she’d want me that way too. I want the impossible. What the hell am I doing? Cass nearly destroyed me, and I’m wanting another girl who will do the same thing. For a few more moments I stand there. I don’t like perfume, and I don’t know that Dana wears it. I do know I love the smell of her, of whatever it is she puts on her body. I breathe in until I realize that I’m acting like some crazy stalker and that if Boz were here he’d smack me in the back of the head. I need to be smacked on the back of my head. I turn and walk quietly down the stairs, mad at myself and even more annoyed at the little sister that has disrupted my fun.

I call Mom in the morning as I start coffee. “Jason?” Like she always answers. “Yep.” “Did Justine get settled in?” “Oh yeah. She’s fine.” It’s me who’s a little disgruntled over the situation. “Did she sleep okay?” Mom’s voice has that worried tinge that always puts me on edge. “Fine. What’s going on?” Justine certainly hasn’t been very forthcoming. “She didn’t tell you?” “She told me she needed to get away for a while.” “Oh,” Mom says. “Well, she started dating Trevor almost as soon as she got here and they split up. She was a mess and begged us to let her go visit you. I thought she’d called.” “Oh, she did call. She called me and just happened to catch me in Anchorage.” “Sorry, Jason. Next time I’ll make sure we’re in touch. Justine made it sound like everything was set up. It’s her spring break next week, so she isn’t missing much school, and… I guess I just assumed you two had talked.” I sigh into the phone. “So, how are things going up there?” Mom knows something’s up. We’ve spoken a few times since Dana’s arrival. “I have absolutely no idea.” “All right.” She waits for me to say more, but I don’t even know how to start. “Well, thanks again for being such a good big brother. It means a lot.” “Bye, Mom.” I’m ready to head inside and see where I stand with both of them. “Love you, son.”

“It did.” Dana’s wide eyes are penetrating. I’m reminded that Justine and I also need to talk. What are we all doing today?” She smiles brightly. “Your mom?” I hear Dana behind me. why didn’t she just tell me? Something here doesn’t make sense. I spin around to face her. I want to slide my arms around her waist and breathe her in. . Having two girls here that I only kind of understand isn’t going to be easy. “So. I think about it for too long and Justine appears.” If that’s all that’s going on with Justine.” I nod.“Love you. and when Cass left I think she came out for my sanity. Unfortunately. It’s why Justine ends up out here. “My parents are pretty great. Well.” “She sounds nice.” I want to ask her what’s going on between us. “Yeah.” Dana smiles a little. “I think they’re a little more distracted now than they were when I was growing up. What maybe could go on between us.” “And it helped. too.

” Dana looks lost. I find her looking at me once in a while. The other thing that sucks is Dana has given no hint at anything happening between us in the near future at all. and I’m doing food prep before the kitchen gets insane. “I’ve made coffee. she and Dana have been pretty close.” . I’m worried Dana is going to come downstairs completely inappropriate and Justine will follow. which doesn’t help me any.” she says. “Justine. “I stayed up too late last night talking with Leann.” “She okay?” “She’s fine. No flirtatious looks. “Thanks for toning it down a little. In the two days since Justine arrived.” She wanders over and grabs herself a mug. Dana comes down looking…gorgeous.The Paranoia is Never-Ending I’m nervous about the weekend. “You okay?” “Not sleeping well. “I know. I exhale in relief and partial wistfulness. Wonder if the whole no-strings thing has expired? It’s early on Friday morning.” she answers.” I smile at her as she starts pouring cereal. No abs showing. I have to admit that it’s probably nice for Justine to have a girl out here. but it’s filled with confusion. but I am a little nervous that the other girl is Dana.” “Perfect. No touching. I’ll miss watching her smooth strip of skin walk away from me this weekend. And thanks.

“Nothing. and something she probably wouldn’t tell me even if I did. “You look green. and starts picking at it with her fingers.” I try to tease.The way Dana says it makes me realize that they weren’t talking about Leann. No milk. What the…? Dana steps in just as Justine disappears up the stairs and follows. well…something to eat. Justine picks up a newly finished pizza and starts to walk it out. it’s pretty easy for the girls to keep up with what they have to do. I must need more caffeine. and I’m swamped in the kitchen.” Justine mumbles as she walks carefully into the kitchen.” The day continues on as usual. “Thanks a lot. I start to turn around and go back to cutting. And with two of them. “You almost never let me have coffee.” Dana chuckles. Her eyebrows pull together. She stops suddenly.” She frowns. and I need you two girls bright-eyed and bushy-tailed today . Our eyes catch for a moment. I run the pizza out and go back to the kitchen to finish up the next set of lunch orders. and I’m a little worried. “Still dazed. Justine gives me a weak smile in return. it’s Friday morning. Dana and Justine greet everyone even though Justine still doesn’t look like she’s feeling all that great.” “Maybe you need coffee. . It’s weird. The lunch crowd starts to file in. drops the pizza on the counter and runs upstairs. “I’m fine. and I open my mouth to ask. but I realize that Dana is staring at Justine with an odd look on her face. Something I probably can’t ask her about. “Morning. Dana has something going on. “What’s with everyone today?” I laugh a little.” I say. It takes Dana almost thirty minutes to come back down.” I suggest.” “Well. Or. they were talking about Dana. I just need something in my stomach. pours a bowl of cereal.

I decide that I already know I’m crap at deciphering what women want. I feel like my brain isn’t hardwired right to get girls. Probably from the airplane or something. but I do know that something isn’t right. “I’m fine.” I try not to sound too irritated. “Your sister has some sort of stomach bug.“What’s going on? You two left me in the lurch down here. I think something isn’t right. She’s heading to bed.” Dana looks…weird. . Or. at least.” She grabs a pitcher of coffee and a pitcher of water and walks out of the kitchen. though. Maybe it’s just two girls in here.” She suddenly smiles and things start to look normal again. Something’s off. Maybe nothing’s weird. so I go back to cooking and try to keep my brain there. I have no idea. “Don’t worry.

but eventually she’s going to have to tell her brother why she’s here. “What?” Justine stares. just waiting for her reaction. “It hasn’t really come up. It’s the kind that takes practice.” I shrug. Pleeeaase?” Jason laughs until I catch his eyes. she came out of hiding.” “Anyone with a TV or a computer has to know what Twilight is. Two days and I love her to pieces already. After the weekend crowd disappeared. but keeps his eyes on his computer. “Oh. but his eyes are still very carefully trained on his screen.” Justine says. . Her cereal spews over the table.” I smirk.” “I don’t plan on reading them. then his face falls.DANA Way Too Much History “I can’t believe you haven’t read Twilight. “Hasn’t really come up?” Justine laughs again. From the posters of the adolescent boys on your walls. “Both Jason and Boz have read them and they’re no fun to talk to because all they do is complain about Bella.” I take another sip of coffee. “But you’ve heard of it. I laugh. “You’re only saying that because you haven’t read them yet. “Besides. I’d say I was Team Jacob. Jason shakes his head. Jason fails at holding in his smile.” Jason chuckles. I’ve been sleeping in your room. “Please?” Justine uses her best whiny voice. Justine is eating hers dry again. He’ll figure it out soon enough if she keeps feeling as rotten as she is.” Justine is open-mouthed at me over our bowls of cereal.

If Boz and Jason can take it. trying to pretend that this isn’t going to be a big deal. and I start to understand why Jason can’t tell her no. I breathe in as we get closer together and the familiar smell and feel of him rocks my core. too.” His body slumps a little in defeat. I can read four stupid books. How he smells.” He glares at Justine.” I tease finding this whole conversation suddenly hilarious. “Yes. I’m sure I can. too. “Give me some thinking space?” I’m being pulled between liking him way more than I should. “Okay.” I smirk again as I stand. Jason. I’m assuming you have them around here somewhere?” I take another sip. which is more adorable than angry. “Thanks.” Jason’s eyes are on mine in a way that quakes through me. but Jason takes my hand.” “Well. How he feels. I just…” My heart’s hammering at how close we are. and gives me the slightest tug until I sit next to him. “I’m confused about a lot right now. . For Justine. and hating how much I like him. “You read Twilight. I’m half convinced that I am going crazy.“Wow. suddenly needing more room to breathe.” “Yes. He reaches his hand to the back of my neck and starts to bring us together. How his hand feels on my neck. “For reading the books that Justine obsesses over. “I’ll be right back!” She leaps out of her seat so fast she almost spills her remaining cereal on the table and runs up the stairs. I’m also being torn between Alaska and St.” I just want to soak in this fabulous moment for a few minutes. Justine’s whole face lights up. “Jason…I…” There’s no way to say anything without sounding crazy. Everything. Justine. He has to know I’m going to hold this over his head. “For what?” I lean away slightly. I’m sure I can. if you can handle it.” “But—” “Sorry. “Jason read a teenage girl vampire book.

Instead of at least sitting next to him. Jason sits still for a moment.” I take the stack of books from her and set them on the counter. “I’ll get to it. “Just have a few things to finish first. and the uncertain future I could have.” Justine nods once. Not with this.” I sit on the edge of a couch and pull my laptop up. and see if Keith’s made any more ridiculous demands about how I need to keep him informed. I grab all the dishes and do a quick wash in the sink. and we’re very thankfully interrupted by Justine as she tromps back down the stairs— her four Twilight books with their tattered edges in hand. “So. She holds them out toward me as I dry my hands. but she can’t help me. I want to check in with Leann. and I realize she really is desperate for me to read these books. I promise. and I think we’re good. . and the future I had. this is the first one and…” “I’m sure I can figure it out. Leann listened. I just don’t know at all what I want. and the last thing Jason needs is to be led down another path with a dead end. Justine gasps just a little as I pick up my computer.Louis.

“And anyway. but I know if I make a move they’ll stop talking. “But you’re the one telling your brother that we’re swapping sleeping arrangements. “What if I want my room back?” Justine whispers back. I smile openly then.” Dana says.JASON I Really Should Know Not to Try and Make Sense of This.” I’m not convinced that it doesn’t matter to Dana. I suddenly realize the girls are whispering in the living room area. they hover in closer. It doesn’t matter. I miss my room. Having Justine get her way is almost as scary as when it happens to Dana. . I try hard to look like I’m still concentrating and not smiling. “What?” Dana looks over her shoulder at me and frowns. “Yes.” Shit. but it doesn’t matter. When she turns back.” “Fine. Maybe she’s unsure about where Justine wants to be or maybe she’s unsure about coming back to my room. As I’m writing at one of the dining tables. “It’s totally fine. that’s where I was before. “Okay. For some reason this is exactly what Justine wants. This can’t be good. I don’t know and the chances of me finding out are slim. “Jason is making me sleep on his couch.” I don’t have to see Justine to know the smug look she has on her face. I try to look like I’m concentrating. thinking about what I might be up to tonight. I strain to hear. and I don’t care either way. not knowing I can still hear everything they say.” Justine says. “Really?” Dana sounds unsure.” Dana whispers.

“I miss my room. I feel like I’m in high school again. I take off for Boz’s place. They may be hideous. Justine heads to my apartment. “Dana has been sleeping in Justine’s room and Justine had been sleeping on my couch. I stare at her back as she walks into the living room and flops into one of the ugly couches. but she’s not acting like the flirt I was sleeping with last week and. no. it rolls loudly through the still room and clunks on the stairs as she walks up.” . I can’t imagine spending all the time required to break in a new set. She’s completely absorbed in Justine’s book. She’s still wearing her glasses and her sweats are barely high enough to cover her panties. “Girls cramping your style?” Boz laughs as I come through the door. I’m excited about our night. “Dana said it’s fine. tiptoeing around. still. I sit back down at my computer and resist the urge to sit close to Dana.” I look over at Dana and smile. Today. not knowing what to do… An hour later Dana is still reading Twilight and Justine has taken over my computer. After a while Justine appears with her suitcase. When lunch is over I do dishes. This is boring and ridiculous. I overheard part of the girls’ conversation—” “No.” Boz shakes his head.” “I think it’s changed now. We still have loads of food from our last Costco run. I know Dana’s sleeping in my room tonight.” She says as soon as she’s out of sight. but they’re just so damn comfortable. “Never try to make sense of a conversation between girls. So.I finish making a huge veggie pizza for lunch—girls’ request. I have no idea what to expect.” I rub my hands over my face a few times. and Dana picks up Twilight. We both sit at his small wooden table. “Bummer.

and we both laugh at the reaction. I have no idea if it was her idea or Dana’s idea…” “Jason. “You’re way over thinking. I love her like this. I stand and watch her for a minute. I walk to my apartment to see Dana sitting in bed. He has my TV for when he really wants to watch something. “And we’ll keep having it until you get it.” I run my hands through my hair a few times. she has her hair up in a ponytail and her glasses on. Justine’s gone. Let’s finish it off. Boz opens his laptop back up. “Thanks.” He looks pleased. that sucks. “I can roll one up for you.” “I think we’ve had this conversation before. The place is quiet when I open the door. “I was in the middle of a Guy Ritchie film when you walked in. It’s the perfect thing to get my brain off of the situation at home. but as soon as you try to have more with that girl. a few minutes later Justine marches upstairs with her suitcase. I have to start thinking about something other than Dana. Handsome Bob has just come out to his best friend. you’re going to get crushed.” “Not tonight. This is exactly what I need. great. “How’s business?” I ask him. but they’re old and might not notice. Dana’s gone. man. He makes more runs to the post office than anyone I know. I’m still waiting for one of the postal ladies to ask him why he has so many friends in Amsterdam. You’re a guy. “Excellent. She’s wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants. Tough guys kickin’ ass and schemes and crazy twists. Stop. If you get to have sex. Boz’s marijuana seeds are becoming a bit of a fad.” It’s the perfect thing to get my mind off whatever’s going on next door.” I shake my head.” Boz hits play and the movie continues.” He laughs a little.” Boz is laughing at me.” “I’ve seen them all. If you don’t. “Want a light?” Boz asks. Boz would smack me in the back of the . This is good.I stare. “Anyway. I’m a mess.

I never do. I smile a little. Nothing else.” I can be friendly. “It’s slow. “Hey. “Hey. If this is how she wants us right now. So much for Boz’s words of wisdom.head. Justine’s here and things are good. I can tell she still wants some space.” I smile. and if friends are what we are. I already knew this. I’d rather be too careful than scare her away. But. I tell myself. First off. “And you have that very important book to read. judging by her cryptic few sentences. “I mean. I just stare.” “I’m…” I have no idea what I’m going to say. How did she know to say “I can’t” and what does Justine being here have to do with anything and what on earth does she mean by “things are good?” Shit. I can do it. It’s okay. body language and presence of pajama pants versus panties—we’re just sharing somewhere to sleep. I deserve it. “I read like I’m reading out loud. we’re okay. “In the book. That actually sucks. She looks up at me and pulls her legs up closer to her body.” She almost looks apologetic. this Dana. “I blaze through things. and now I’m going to be sleeping next to her. I guess we’re friends now…who share a bed. The real girl is here. Dana’s back in her sweats. I can’t look at her without thinking about my hand on her.” She shakes her head. again. It feels like talking about the weather. but not with her? This is crazy.” I tell her.” I don’t understand most of what she said.” Why would I care how fast or slow she reads? “Where are you?” I point. “I can’t. I know better. but I know I won’t stay mad.” She smiles at me. I’m all over the place. It’s like I can’t touch this girl. I find a plain white undershirt and after I strip to my boxers I grab a pair of pj pants. “I’m a slow reader. Wait.” . and second. I’m once again annoyed at Justine.

I feel like an idiot. This is a mess.” “You’re just about to hit my favorite scene. I knew what I was getting into when we started…” Whatever it is that we have or had.” I lean across the bed to rest a hand on her shoulder. and she can sniff out a bullshit answer like nobody’s business. and now as far from me on the bed as she can manage. “There are a lot of other rooms open.” She folds the book closed and starts to slide off away from the wall. Too eager will chase her away.” She shakes her head.” Something hits me. I like it.” I sit on the edge of my bed. even though my hands have been everywhere.“Bella’s in Port Angeles. Stay. “Justine kept asking about scenes. Please. which suddenly seems like a risky move. Dana leans back against the wall. “It’s fine that you’re here.” As soon as the words are out. I realize what an asshole I am. “Dana. We’d just have to wash the sheets before the weekend anyway. Sleeping together? Her moving into my room? Both? . I don’t know if I’m going home to St. “Jason has a favorite Twilight scene.” I’m not exactly sure what she means by “this” and I probably don’t want to know. “I didn’t. I cringe. “I wasn’t even thinking. I just don’t know. It’s okay.” She’s herself and she’s teasing me. Dana grins.” I shrug as I turn around. it’s worth it.” The moment the words are out. “I can see that about her. “No. Dana’s face falls. Louis. not eager enough and she’ll think I don’t want her here. Staying in Anchorage for a bit. Home to somewhere else. I rub my face before turning away and cram as many logs into the fireplace as I can. “I’m… This was a bad idea.” And hell if I’m afraid to say anything. but if we can lie together while she laughs at me. “Is that so?” She laughs. “I don’t know what I’m doing after this.

But I do have the most comfortable bed in this place.” I don’t want to fight with her. The problem is that she’s in my bed. This is definitely going to bite me in the ass.” I flop down and pull up the blankets.“Relax. and I really. really want her here whether we’re having sex or not. . but this whole thing is a reminder of why I shouldn’t get involved. “I’m wiped. She needs space because she doesn’t know what she wants. I’m going to crash.

Paris. I send Mitchum. I may not even have to take a sick day. . My wife and I would love to take advantage of your offer. I’m sure that she’s starting to get nervous. but There Are Some. Jason I get a response in less than five minutes. This is good. I’m sure you’d like an opportunity to talk with Dana Copeland. an email. This is Jason Warner. and he’s the best kind of guy. Helpful without being intrusive.There Aren’t a Whole Lot of Things I Can do. and I want to be around when that happens. Mr. from the DA’s office . so I’m thinking he’ll help me out. Even though she hasn’t mentioned it. We’ll see you Sunday night and we’ll stay through Monday morning. I know the Matthew Workman trial is coming up soon. I’ve known him for a while. and if I’m talking with a witness. and I also know that at some point the gravity of what she’s involved in is going to hit her. just let me know. Jason– Great to hear from you. I’m sure you’d have a few empty rooms anyway. Mitch I’m glad I can be helping in some way because I’m sure Dana would refuse anything direct. I will happily give you a room in the lodge for yourself and your wife this weekend to give you time to talk over the case. I know the trial that Dana is going to testify in is coming up fast.

Justine clasps her hands together and begs. I catch Dana’s eyes then. Dana stands up on the table with me to hold it in place while I mess with the small screws. I need to make Boz hang out here more and smack me when I think this way. She smells good. but I’m not taking any chances. Dana is making grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s good. I know you only have to turn off the breaker of the area you’re working in. and I keep stealing glances at her as I try to put the new fixture on. . I’d probably be worse.” She giggles as she watches from a bench. and she doesn’t look away. Justine has already ripped open the box of the new fixture. Guess its good that we have a gas stove since I just turned off the power. Dana tries not to laugh. And I’m doing it again. “Damn it. I go out to the electric box and turn off the main line of electricity coming in here. and I know I’ll end up doing it anyway. I can’t help myself. I hate touching those raw wire edges. I start to put the wires together. and she’s smiling at me. Jase.” I exhale as I pull out the boxes holding the light fixtures Dana bought. so horrible. I scoot the first table underneath where I need to be standing. and I wonder if she even knows how to cook anything else. My heart skips.” I look down at her. and I jump.” Justine hisses from below me. please. black on black. white on white and green… “Bzzt.” They’re obviously not going to let it go. “It’s so easy. They’re tough old tables and shouldn’t have any problem with me. “Please Jason. I smile back. those things are so. “Try. Nothing will work. I hate this part. I get the first wagon wheel off with cheers from the girls. Dana sets the sandwiches up on the counter and comes to help.” I want to be mad. I take a deep breath and start.” “Give me a sec.This is Why I Like to Work Alone “I hate wiring. but I know if our positions were reversed. Justine.

and her smile is mischievously optimistic.” I grab Dana in a half hug and kiss her loudly on the side of her face. “So. I knew it already. “I have no fu…freaking idea. what’s going on with you two?” Justine asks quietly. It’s my sister who already adores Dana.” She nods once and disappears into the kitchen. hoping for some sort of future. So much better.It takes all afternoon and nearly endless complaints of how long everyone is going without TV and Internet. Good light.” Justine’s words hit me hard. I really do like Dana. but hearing it out loud is different. It’s not Boz giving me a hard time. . A lot. We all stand in the living room and look at the dining area—no wagon wheels.” I look down. “Thank you. “You’re welcome. Some sort of impossible future. but it’s worth it. And me kind of hoping for a chance at the same thing. Simple fixtures. “You really like her.

” I swallow hard. “I testify next week unless it gets bumped again. okay?” . I’m standing in my favorite corner of the restaurant staring across the snow wishing this wasn’t happening. “And that’s how I made partner so early!” He’s out of breath after his excited rant over his big promotion. “I thought that wasn’t even a possibility until like a year from now.” And if I thought the pressure was on before.” “Yeah. We’re actually going to head out for a few days together.” I hope I don’t sound as awful as I feel. that’s great. so it feels like a big deal. and probably wants me to come when the thought makes me sick. “If you can make it. you know we’d love to have you. “It wasn’t supposed to be.” Keith’s voice has a tone of honest seriousness in it now. “Yeah. “One call and I’ll come up. The floor’s dropped out from underneath me as Keith’s voice continues in his excited chatter.” I’m trying to sound excited. But I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen.” I tell him.” “Wow. Congrats again. I’m being completely selfish. I mean. He really is excited. “I bet Dad is really proud.” “Dana. but the lump in my throat is becoming painful. it’s nothing compared to now.” I can tell by Keith’s voice that he isn’t gloating. “Where’s he taking you?” “Vail.DANA Fairness has nothing to do with it. and wants me to be excited for him. Dad never takes time off. sis.

It’s everyone I grew up around.” he says. And now this. “No. And despite Jason’s education and training. Louis.” What I don’t say is that . He’s here. He was one of the first people they’ve hired straight out of law school in something like more than ten years. “He made partner at his firm. “That’s good. Not at this point in my life. but I don’t think I can shed enough vanity to be that person. he’s not running…say a hotel in Vail. and I’m not sure if I want to know what he’s thinking. the deeper I fall. but geography is off. He works for one of the most prestigious corporate litigation firms in St. and he just made partner a year early. I can’t stay here. and I needed out so I came here. “It’s not just my dad and my brother. only it’s a stupid thing to do because the more time I spend around him. it’s just a year. Just when I half settle in here. and work for Dad. and I set my phone on the table.“Yeah. and in my dad’s words—why would you settle. “What’s going on with your brother?” Jason’s voice is quiet.” We exchange goodbyes. that’s actually pretty incredible. and… I don’t even know what. Something washes through me leaving goose bumps on my skin and heavy despair in my gut. still staring out at the snow. and the more I realize that not only timing. I need to get my master’s done. when you can do better? It’s what I’ve been raised with.” I turn to face him. “You don’t talk much. I graduated from high school a year early.” It’s phenomenal. right? Making partner?” Only his head cocks a little to the side as he watches me. and I realize he probably heard my end of the whole thing. Both are way off. and wonder if maybe I could stay in Alaska. finished an Ivy League education in three years.” “But. And I love that about him because it’s so much a part of who he is. Dad surrounds himself with people who are unusually successful no matter what field they’re in. right?” Jason does a weird swallow with that. but I’m fine. I know there’s pressure—” “Pressure doesn’t even begin…” I’m not sure how to explain to Jason. “About your family. “A year for me brings me back to ‘normal’ timing. I’ll let you know. You can imagine my trip up here was not looked upon favorably.

“Stop when you’re ready to head home.I wasn’t good enough for my mom to stay part of our family.” More moving.” “If you can find the way. I wasn’t good enough for my brother to stick up for.” I narrow my eyes. “Wanna get out of here and join me on a ride before it gets dark out there?” Jason tilts his head toward outside. and my father’s daughter starts to fade away. “I’ve been riding up here since I was a kid.” I pull in a deep breath. “You lead.” “Actually.” Jason says as we suit up. and I need to de-stress. I give him a small smile. “That would be great. no matter how hard I tried.” He throws me a smirk as he steps out the door.” Jason chuckles. I wasn’t good enough to graduate number one. My dad has always told me I could do anything. and I’m actually smiling because it feels like a challenge. let me just say that I’m glad my brothers aren’t overachievers. and then in the deep snow. even when his friends were screwing me over—literally. but really just want to be alone. This is exactly what I needed. . “Well. Once I’m on the machine. the stress of being Keith’s little sister. and I have this overwhelming need to prove him right. I’ll bring us back when you’re ready. and cruising down the trail. less thinking. and I’ll lead us back. “I feel sorta responsible for this serious conversation. and part of me wonders if I’ll be able to break out of this shell of total mediocrity.

but it’s hard being this close to you. but that I’d make it even worse if we were to do more than we’re doing now. His fingers slide across the back of my hand. and how I’m loving the book in the morning. seeing you.” There’s enough tease in his voice that it’s keeping us out of serious territory.” I close my eyes.He Should Run Screaming Instead of Teasing. it’s now feels tiny. and go back to the book.” He wags his brows. knowing again that I’m leading him on by being here. this is…something. We’ve had sex. Or at least part way out.” I agree. but it gets caught with the lump in my throat. “So. “Jason. “Way too late for that. We’re sharing a bed and a room and our days.” He sighs and stares at the ceiling. “I’m about to sound crazy. There are just already too many things I’m going to miss. This stupid book is the only barrier. Once again Jason strips down to his boxers before pulling on pajama pants. Justine will want me to tell her where I’m at. The day with him was just another reminder of how easy things could be between us. I shake my head. “You know what else helps me de-stress. and after feeling pretty big and heavy all day. I’m watching him over the top of Justine’s book and probably being completely too obvious. Jason jumps into his sides of the bed. I’m aware of the absurdity of this situation. I know this from the past few mornings of vampire/werewolf talk. and not being able to touch you. sending goose bumps up my arm that quickly spread over my body.” Jason slides between the sheets and rolls on his side to look at me.” I try to smile. So much for teasing. “Something. and too many ties to a place I was supposed to leave without ties for me to take advantage of how much I love his body. . “We could try the no-strings thing again.

and lets me push. How did I get into this mess? . but I put both hands on his back and shove. and his side.” He starts to turn toward me. Now leave me alone so I can read. and runs his fingers down my calf. “You’re such a guy. picturing Jason naked and turned on all too well. “Nope.” I start to tease him about not letting bed bugs bite.” I can tell he’s smiling. but the lump in my throat is too big. I have to lighten this again. I can show you if you like. “You’ve got to be kidding me. He chuckles. “Then roll over. and his hips to roll him away from me.” I clutch my book. “That was actually a bit of a turn-on. “Better?” I ask when he’s facing the opposite wall. but I’m so desperate for things between us to stay light. but he doesn’t move either. I want so much more.Emotion wells up in me because this is all stupid and pointless.” I push out something like a laugh.” I’m trying to tease. He reaches out behind him without turning his head. that I’m sure some shakiness comes through. as I shove his chest. Dana. “Goodnight. stupid.

Somebody Really Should Have Given me some Warning– Flicked my Ear or Something I’m finally headed inside after checking all the rental machines before the weekend. I need all the help I can get. and the first words I hear from Justine get my attention. come on. And anyway.JASON OK. neither of us are really ready for that. “Justine. and the smell of the gas I spilled on my hands will probably follow me all day. I’m afraid to breathe. It can’t go anywhere. Ah. “That would make it real. perfect question. “So. “I don’t know. I think he’s still . I’m not willing to risk scaring her off. I’m not stupid. I have no idea what to do with Dana. it just seems like…” Justine starts. to do anything that might alert them to my presence. don’t you guys talk about it or anything?” “No. to move. It would make it real and for whatever reason. look around.” Dana answers quickly.” I can picture Justine’s face now and it makes me smile. Not yet. Well. There are too many differences. It’s not just really horrible timing. what’s going on with you and my brother?” Justine asks. not after my divorce. it’s thousands of miles of distance.” I smile at that. At some point in time I’ll be working for my dad. I might be but I shouldn’t be. Jason wouldn’t leave here for his wife. At any rate. I open the door into the warmth of the lodge. “Well.” “Well. “What do you mean?” “Oh. I don’t want something big right now. Dana’s silent for a moment.

And we don’t live close enough. Justine takes a deep breath and tries to smile at me.” Justine says. nothing. “You have to tell your brother why you’re here. but she doesn’t do a good job.” Dana tries to make it all sound like it’s all been no big deal.” I tense waiting for her response. It’s silent and then I hear Justine again.” Dana says. I just walked in from outside. He’s been great. What really sucks is I’m in that deep too. and we’ve had some fun together.” “What about love conquers all and all that?” “If love conquered all. “Enough about me.broken after Cass.” Good point. “What?” I ask as I come around the corner from the coatroom. “Why do you have to work for your dad?” “I want to. I’m going crazy here. no one would ever get divorced. I feel it. simple. I’m not ready. I freeze. “A lot?” Again. . He’s not ready. and I have no idea what to do about it. “Yeah. Dana must have answered yes to the first two questions. “Do you love him?” Justine presses her further. I didn’t hear you come in. I feel what I knew from the beginning. But I still feel it. “Oh.” Dana says. The room goes fuzzy.” I realize my mistake and try to cover. Right. “But you like my brother.” Wait. I wonder if Dana knows me well enough to detect the lie. “I…I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.” Justine says. “What?” “I’m pregnant. I feel it where I shouldn’t because I like her that way too. knowing by the look on their faces that this is big.

” “Ahh. . This is a new one.” Her face is hard and her arms are folded. I almost pull the light off the ceiling when I find it. She doesn’t say anything. “She’s in there crying because of you. seriously? What was she thinking?” “Jason. I need out of here.“What?” My body tenses in anger. She hasn’t missed a beat. she’s in there crying because of her. Some little punk had his hands on… There’s no way I can finish the thought. I turn around and head back to the coat closet.” I smile at her sarcastically. mad at the guy. “Yeah… I’m gonna need a minute on this one. No mistaking her for anything but angry.” I clasp my hands together and rest them on the top of my head. “Yeah.” She nods. and needs to be hauled out. I mean. “What the hell are you doing?” she says as she comes through the door. I hear Dana’s voice. The place is still a disaster from the old owners—everything in here is old. I’m mad at her. “No. but I really don’t want to deal with the aftermath. My little sister. I don’t know what to do. mad she’s here. I know it would feel good. “Justine is a friend of mine. About ten minutes or so into my shuffling. rusted. I imagine myself smashing every plate in the cabinets and throwing something through the window. grabbing my coat from its hook and heading straight for the shed. how old were you when you first had sex?” she asks. I stand for a moment with my eyes closed. “Are you sure?” I’m trying to keep from tearing apart my kitchen or hurling something across the room. My arm flails around in the dark until I find the worn out old string to turn on the light. I hit the heavy stuff first—cramming everything I don’t want anymore against the back door. I’m sure. “What business is it of yours?” I snap back and grab an old oil barrel to start rolling toward the back door.

She stands still. At her age. I’d be terrified. you’re not her dad. “She was too afraid to tell your parents.” I tip the barrel on its side and roll it toward the back. She finally gets the courage and you run out here. “I’m not her dad. I don’t know what to do with myself. This is about my little sister. Shit. I can’t. “You’re supposed to go in there. She came here because she was hoping to get some support. and tell her that you love her no matter what. “Sixteen. She trusts you. Justine’s age. but I feel bad.” “So. and I’m almost six years older than she is. This isn’t about me. not really. give her your best big brother hug. banging it into an old wood table as it moves.” Her accusatory look is back. I was sixteen. Shit. your sister’s situation could have been you except that her boyfriend took off at the first sign of trouble. She’s terrified right now. telling Mom and Dad that I’d gotten a girl pregnant would have been horrible. “I shouldn’t have to deal with this. That’s all she needs. “That’s something I never .” I shake my head as my shoulders slump. “The whole idea of it is just…” I shake my head again and run my hand over my hair. almost seventeen. Jason.” Dana raises her voice over the noise I’m making.” I rub my hands hard over my face and then again through my shortened hair. I try to put myself in Justine’s place.“Isn’t that a little personal?” I don’t want to go there. “That’s my sister! What am I supposed to do?” I throw my hands in the air. “You’re right. “No. She worships you. shit. “And the girl?” Shit again. She was terrified to tell you because of what you’ll think about her. waiting for an answer. “Also sixteen. she has me.” I finally admit. “Get over it.” I looked up at Dana and chuckle as I start toward the door. You’re her brother.” She smiles at me a little then.” Dana sighs. shit. and I’m sure you wouldn’t have.

right?” This is what Dana said she needs.” She pushes me away. I think back to the conversation I overheard. “Sorry.” I love the way Dana’s looking at me right now. “Thank you. “Let me know if I can do anything. Guess we’re back to games. I wonder how much more awkward this would have been without Dana here. smiling. I realize real quick that I don’t want to know. You know that.thought I’d say to you. So much that I take a step closer.” “Thanks a lot. and she’s sitting on the big couch with a roll of toilet paper in her hands.” I stop. “Thank you. and it’s probably the only thing I know how to do to help.” Her voice is muffled. “Go talk to your sister. I sigh. What the hell am I supposed to do next? . Justine’s eyes are red. Jason. and I want to kiss her more than I’ve wanted to kiss anyone.” She laughs and punches me lightly on the chest as I walk past her.” I sit down next to her and put my arm around her. “I love you. She puts her arms around me and continues to cry. okay?” She buries her face in my chest then.” “I love you no matter what. “I’m really glad you’re here. too.

and Justine’s ramblings.” Mitch grins back. “Oh.” I nod. it’s dinner. “You need to know what the defense… Look over your story well… It’s okay to be positive but don’t say you are if you aren’t. Mitch’s wife is sitting next to Dana with her arm around her. It’s great that they’re talking. hoping he’ll .” I smile as they walk through the door. but I can see Mitch and his wife just fine. What did I miss? I walk up to the table. Her back is to me. yeah.” “Dana’s around?” Mitch asks.” She doesn’t look up. “Glad you two made it. and then gesture with my head toward the kitchen. past caring if I’m wanted here or not.” I nod.What I CAN Do Mitchum Paris and his wife arrive Sunday afternoon. Mitch is looking right at her. Probably whispering in a corner with Justine. right about when things slow a little for us. which she definitely is. I catch glimpses of phrases between orders for beer. I couldn’t really refuse your offer. When I do. “Well. Dana is trying to look like she’s concentrating on the papers in front of her and not upset. “Thanks. Boz’s orders from the kitchen.” “Hey. This is an important thing that you’re doing. but it sucks that I can’t hear a word. just nods and Mitch’s wife rubs her hand over Dana’s back a few more times as Dana touches the corners of her eyes over and over. it’s easy to tell when someone’s lying on the stand…” I have to run into the kitchen but come back as soon as I can.” Somewhere. no problem. Before I have a chance to think about Dana and Mitchum Paris. “You can take Room Four upstairs. Dana. his face flushed with cold. “She’s around. I wait until Mitch catches my eye. “This is a big deal. Dana’s at her favorite table in the corner.

there’s almost nothing I can do. I wander into the kitchen and start taking over for Boz. I remember that I don’t have to tiptoe around Boz. and if I can give her some space to get lost and not think about the trial or her brother or her dad. Why can’t girls be like this? “What’s up?” Mitch asks from the doorway seconds after Boz disappears. I need to do it. Dana’s standing in the kitchen waiting for coffee when her phone rings.” “No prob. We really have no case without her. I’m sure you’re anxious to get back and get this thing started. “Come on in. She stares at the number for a .” “Okay. Or get her to talk to me. Dana will be the first or second witness Tuesday. No feelings hurt.” We shake hands and he returns to his seat. his family. Sunday goes from being an unusually busy day until just after dinner when it goes completely dead. more in sympathy than anything else. The problem is that Dana won’t talk about it and without her telling me what I can do to help. Or give up already because she’s being completely mental. Mitch and his wife are watching a movie in their room and probably enjoying the quiet. “Hey.” “Yes. but I’m not sure how to ask. No big deal. Dana’s absorbed in another Twilight book.” Mitch nods.” He sighs and slides his hands in his pockets. I am. I think the reality of it all is starting to sink in. My gut twists again. thanks. I want Boz to go so I can talk with Mitch. I’m hoping to talk to the DA for a few.” I wave him in. Finally. “How’s Dana? What’s going on?” “I told her a little about the victim.” He simply walks out.follow me when he gets a chance. “Thanks for coming out here. “We picked our jury last week. Now I have to figure out a way to help her out without scaring her off.

” He laughs. “I won’t be offended either way and neither will he. “I knew you’d love it. “So. “This is Dana. Because where else would he be?” Martin chuckles again. “Up to you. It’s quiet in the room. . She laughs and hands her phone to me. that’s better than making you crazy. “The author is right here.” she whispers quietly.” I laugh a little. “It’s Martin. They must be good friends or used to be good friends.” My hands are shaking as I start to realize who this guy is and what he might be able to do for me. You sent me an email with an attachment that I have to assume was written by whomever you’re sharing a bed with these days. Martin?” She’s still smiling at me. and I can hear every word. “Well.” I smile and wink so she knows I’m agreeing with her friend Martin. “I would imagine. Why don’t you talk to him?” “Of course.” She smiles at me wider. She’s expert at that. Dana’s smile is wide. I realize that she’ll be able to hear everything as well. how’s Dana treating you?” he asks.” Her brows come together.” “This is Jason.” I take another step into the kitchen. she’s continually saving my sorry ass. he’s right there.moment. “Dana Copeland…” He laughs a little. “Does he have anything else? Are there more of the same characters?” “You know what. “Oh. Better to give her a compliment than to allude to something she acts crazy about. “What’d you think?” “I love it. She ignores his comment.” His voice is too familiar with her. Or shared a bed… My guess is she would have called him if they were as close as he’s sounding. You were right.

This has been just a hobby for me. Jason. . I smile back. He’s almost as excited about it as I am. “So?” She’s smiling widely. That’s great.“So. her whole body moving with excitement. I don’t want to let her go. I’m swimming in the warmth of her and the way she feels against me. which isn’t at all like me. “Want to talk to Dana before we hang up?” I ask. We’ll be in touch. My hope was that it would be a series about the same guy and possibly a few prequel books to come later on. We’re silent and still. I promise to send him the next one after I go over it again and to also forward on outlines I’ve done up for things I hope to be working on soon. I don’t want to step away. I turn my head slightly toward hers and press our lips together. “Dana is not at all a good person for me to be thinking about. It all comes out in a nervous jumble of words.” “Yeah.” I step forward and put my arms around her. “So. She hugs me back. She pulls away just after Justine steps into the room. Dana does not. Dana sent the email to my personal email address. I can’t believe this is happening. “Nah.” “Wow. is this the beginning of a line or a stand alone or what exactly did I read here?” I lean against the counter and explain a little about the next few books. I expect her to turn away from me but she doesn’t.” I ignore his comments about Dana. which is why I’m calling on a Sunday. and all I hear is breathing. I’ve already found an editor for your book. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever try to do something with it. Our cheeks touch.” He laughs. She kisses me back and her mouth is warm and soft and her arms pull more tightly around me. I hear Justine’s footsteps but try to ignore it. I want to be closer. He sounds interested. That and I know I can generally catch Dana on a Sunday if she needs to be caught.” I set down her phone. “Thank you.

“I’ll walk you up.” Justine whispers.” I look back at Dana. “That’s awesome! I knew you could do it.” Only it’s not fine. I’m as confused as ever.” “You two celebrate.” “Dana did it. “I just came down for a bowl of cereal.” Dana half jumps away from me. “Because it just isn’t that easy.” I’m holding her bowl.” “’Night.” It isn’t easy because she won’t let me touch her. Jason. “I didn’t know you two were…” “I don’t know what we are. But she doesn’t.“Oops!” Justine says. To invite me with her or something. And wish to hell I knew what Dana was thinking. “Because she stole your files.” “Don’t be silly. Why don’t you snuggle in with Dana?” She pokes my side.” Justine disappears up the stairs. “Sorry. because my excitement over someone loving my book is tainted by the weight in my gut. “It’s okay. “I have a busy week ahead of me. “Your brother has just landed himself a literary agent for his books.” Dana says. I pour it for her. .” Justine smiles.” I’m waiting for her to look up at me. “Goodnight. “Oh right. I’m going to bed. “I’ll come back later.” And then she disappears. thinking she probably doesn’t feel all that great. It’s fine. “Jason!” Justine comes into the kitchen and throws her arms around me.” Dana smiles at Justine. “I’m exhausted.” Justine explains.

DANA The Night Before What was I thinking kissing him back? I pull my hair up and then make it all messy.” He pauses. I immediately turn back to the book. “For doing something about it. but he owed me the favor of giving it a chance. “Yeah?” I peer over the book. I’m in the rattiest T-shirt of mine that I have (not a ratty as I’d like) and thick pajama bottoms. even though I have no idea what happened on the last page.” I shrug and turn the page. When Jason steps in. Tonight is a night when I should probably take one of the upstairs rooms.” “He owed me a favor. I’m drastically underpaid. . And your help with Justine. “History there?” Jason asks. and for how hard you’ve worked up here…” “It’s true. but at the same time that would be weird since I’ve been staying in here. and I don’t think I can handle any kind of deep conversation tonight.” I smirk. thanks again. “Dana?” So much for disappearing.” I don’t even glance over the book this time. He wouldn’t have picked you up if he didn’t think he could sell it. willing them to make sense. it’s way too small. and once again try to use it for cover. but once again. “For stealing files off your computer?” “No. trying to push off his compliments as a joke and stare at the words on the page. hoping to disappear into the corner. “Thanks. “Well. For Martin.

Maybe I’m a total ass.” I smirk again. “Dana. “What are you doing?” he asks. We got married.” I don’t know how to talk to him. “Dana. and then pretend to read. and the big huge mess. I’m confused as hell right now. Shouldn’t be in here. “Please talk to me. I’m not sorry for my choice.” “Exactly. “I chose the girl. and I ended up here. “Because I’m happy right now.” He touches the top of the book. Maybe… A million different things.” My eyes don’t leave the page. I’m being completely unfair. “Maybe I’m totally misreading you.” I nod and shift away from him. I’m happy.“Not as much as he’d like.” He rests his hand on my knee. but I’m not ready to let go of the life I’ve set up for myself. Shouldn’t be doing this to him. I want you to know that despite the divorce. Not right now. Jason can and should do better than a girl who can’t even commit to a no-strings relationship. Jason sits on the edge of the bed and stares at me. yes.” “How can you not be. broken and angry over the whole mess—and that’s just in the past few weeks. “Please?” “Have you ever had to choose between two good things?” I finally let the book fall closed on my lap. Jason?” It makes no sense. Maybe not ever. I turn another page. “Aside from you confusing the hell out of me. “Hmmm.” “Really?” He does this half snort. .” He nods.” I shouldn’t be here. I watched him be vulnerable. heart hammering. “Yes. I have.

That’s all.” Anything different. I…” But he doesn’t finish. “We get along. I’ve done everything I can to keep the friendship part and the sex part separate. “Why?” He doesn’t move out of my way. “I’m leaving.” His finger brushes my cheek.” “That is a five-year-old reason. . and I actually blush. and I pause. Just before I take it. if it means I can have some space or don’t have to crawl over him. “Because. parting his lips just enough that I crave more. I pull away. Something. “Dana. “Since Clive. “We met at the wrong time and place. Leaving.“Moving.” “I know. “In more ways than one. Instead he leans over and kisses me. you’ve only been with guys you don’t like?” I look away. ready to stay in this bed. I just…” “So.” I nod because the pause is long enough that I have to do something.” He pulls back slightly.” he tries to tease. since you got your heart broken. but Jason moves until we’re looking at one another again.” I scoot back.

My dad just bought a real estate company. It’s everything I love and…” And I’ll be close to family again and working with them this time. . Jase. “I’ll see you in the morning. and I’ll be doing renovations and flipping houses. but he’s already gone.” I open my mouth to ask where he’s going. Jason nods and picks up his pillow as he stands.“It’s for sure. buying apartments for investment… Me. I’m holding my breath waiting for something from him. Anything. Instead of the relief that I wanted to feel. Everything between us is painfully still. He wants me to run it. and I know I won’t be sleeping tonight. my chest caves in.

” The emotion of this slams into me. and her pajama pants stained with blood on the floor. Probably it was over as soon as he knew I was pregnant. “Justine’s asking for you. wondering what’s wrong. right?” . Justine wipes the tears and snot from her blotchy face with the washcloth she’s clutching.Guys Will Never Understand This I stumble out of Jason’s room into the kitchen. “Bathroom. “Come in. Calling Clive. “I think…” “I think you lost the baby. or do something. I hadn’t realized how much I started to rely on sleeping next to Jason at night. “Justine? It’s me. I sprint across the room. “How are you?” She shakes her head. stopping at the bathroom door. desperate for him to come help. “Dana?” Jason bursts into the kitchen from the stairway out of breath. What am I going to find? I push into the room and she’s on the toilet. Instead that was pretty much the beginning of the end.” I freeze with my hand on the knob. “I think…” She hiccups in an odd sob. around Jason and up the stairs. a washcloth clutched in her hands. If Justine’s in the bathroom and needing me. it has to be something big.” he answers.” “Where is she?” I immediately tense. but he hadn’t let on yet. Make me feel better. “I should be relieved. This was me two years ago.” I whisper as I kneel down. “Hey.” I whisper. feeling more drug out than I normally do after a weekend.

“Clive. I scowl. After what I’ve been putting him through. He started paying me extra attention when I graduated.” I’m not good with stuff like this. It was silly. but when you’re there. I’ll go get you clean pajamas and some pain meds. when I was in college. and I know he wants an explanation. “I’ve been here. “Well. Jason’s knuckles are white as he clutches his coffee cup when I step back into the kitchen. “Well. it doesn’t feel like it. When I started at Northwestern. Okay?” She sniffs a few more times “I have to go to Palmer today. Is your stomach cramping?” “Bad. we started dating for real. “Is she okay?” “I’m pretty sure she lost the baby. right?” Jason’s clutch on his mug loosens a little. It took me a while to find the relief.” She nods. I just—” “Whoa. “Thank you. “I pined after him and waited for times when we could see each other. “I’m sorry you have to see me like this. He never had .” I shake my head.” I grab a water from the fridge. “He took off. Girls stick together.” Jason’s watching me way too closely. don’t say that to your sister. “No problem. he probably deserves one. This is fine. that’s good.I sit on the edge of the bathtub and rub her back. I testify tomorrow. young stupidity. Justine. Of course it’s the best route.” I say. but at least I’m doing something.” Justine whispers. Why don’t you tag along. okay?” I give her shoulder one last rub before standing up. just in case it gets really bad and we need to go see the doc. We now had this unbreakable tie to one another. I found out I was pregnant and part of me was excited. “He was a good friend of my brother’s when I was in high school.

” He was probably running away when I called in tears to tell him I’d lost the baby.any intention of sticking around. should she see a doctor or something?” “I don’t know. “Should we take her in?” He shifts uncomfortably. but he and Clive were close. . with Justine…” “It sounds like it all started normal. She can just tag along. then I’m coming too. If that’s okay. More than mine. I don’t think he’s bad. and that I’m messed up enough to want him there. Which sucks. “What about the kid who…” But Jason stops.” “Well. and it makes me wonder what could be different between me and my brother.” Jason turns toward the sink and starts washing his mug. “You know.” I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a big brother like Jason. More than I should. but here’s Jason just wanting to find the right thing to do for his sister. and she let herself get swept up too quickly. I start to protest. “I mean. My brother didn’t mean to be callous about the whole thing. A lot people don’t even know they’re pregnant at this point. just scared. but realize my time up here is probably short. and he understood Clive’s perspective. I’m heading to Palmer in a few hours for the trial anyway.

” I smile. “Jason?” “Yep. “Justine called me a few minutes ago. “Only for you to tell me that she’s gorgeous. Oh! And we spoke briefly the day Cass showed up. “Mom. Mom.” she says. “I’m really proud of you.” “Thanks.” “Congratulations with your writing. knows it.” Relief that it is me. I mean. hoisting myself onto the washing machine and the only place out here where I can find some privacy without climbing on a snowmachine.” . I dial Mom and walk into the laundry room. she’s been a good distraction for me. “Oh. have we?” She laughs. And your sister might have mentioned a few things…” “Right. Jason.JASON Mom Just before we take off I take my cell phone outside to the shower cabin. Like she gets a ton of calls from my number that aren’t me. “She’s been invaluable with this whole Justine thing. it hasn’t been my favorite thing to think about. She always says my name like a question. too. Mom can see through just about anything.” “You’ve been as much a parent to her as we have over the past year or so.” I stop. If I’d had any idea what was going on.” I smile. “As much as I’d never admit this to her.” I’m trying to figure out how to bring up my odd situation/non-situation with Dana. “We haven’t really talked about her. “How are things with Dana?” Her voice is now thick with curiosity. I never would have let her go. but it’s okay. “It’s okay.” I smile. Don’t feel bad.” Mom sounds both appreciative and sad. and is driving you crazy.

I guess. she’d figure out what she wants.” I say it out loud and it makes me face it all over again. but I probably have a good enough idea. because I know if she could just drop the façade for a while. “I don’t know what to do. I start talking and don’t stop. and all she wants is for me to be happy—something (despite my comment to Dana) that’s been hard for me to find. Mom. You never dated unless you really liked the girl.” It’s not Justine who has expectations of Dana and me getting together. I have time Jason. I laugh a little. “What would you do with yourself in St. Louis?” “I don’t know that either. Louis?” she asks. I don’t know how to talk to her.“And it sounds like she was helping out on the Cass front as well?” I nod and then say.” . “It’s making me crazy.” I hear the smile in her voice. and how I’m convinced there’s two girls in Dana’s body and.” She sounds proud of me again. not outside of any given moment. I tell her how I’m sure Dana has no idea what she wants. Jason. “Well. “I don’t know. “Yeah. Keep writing.” “With you. and how I really like her. “I don’t know. and she could be so happy. and how she probably won’t stick around. It’s Mom.” when I remember we’re talking on the phone. how to make her listen to me. She probably will. I tell her that we slept together—I leave out the details even though they’re in my mind as clear as the moment they happened. Tell me what you want to tell me. I tell her about Dana’s dad and brother. You know what Boz said?” “No. “I don’t know why I’m like this. “You’re different.” Mom says.” She laughs. and how I shouldn’t. It means you’re a good man.” “Do you think she’ll stay in Alaska or do you think she’ll end up back in St. We talk about Justine and Dana and how well they get along. It’s not Boz who just wants me to have sex. “I know.” “You can’t make a girl do anything.” She said she was leaving. She could just be herself.

She’s right. Louis.” I sit on the washer.” “But don’t be afraid to tell her how you feel. messy hair . I haven’t decided if I’m glad I called or not. You’re going to have to know her well enough to decide for yourself. too. With that one question from Mom of what I’d do with myself in St. Mom? Give her space or tell her how I feel?” How am I not better at this at my age? “I can’t tell you what to do. Mom. We’re all headed into Palmer in a few minutes. . I’ll take that girl anywhere I can get her.” “Which is it. I want the girl who’s not afraid to run around with a half empty beer. Jase. I’m actually realizing that I’d follow her.” “Thanks. “Just listen.She laughs—good now.” “That’s not going to be easy.” I hang up the phone and sit on the washer for a few more minutes. son. “You’re in love.” How’s that for unhelpful help? “Thanks. and glasses. Love you. “Love you. stunned.” “Okay.” “What?” With Dana? If that’s the case then I’m toast. “Why…” “You wouldn’t leave the lodge for your wife.” Mom says. I really don’t care where we are. She testifies tomorrow. The problem is: would I want to be with her there? How much of the real girl would I see in the city like that? I’m not sure. Give her space and let her talk.

Jason and Justine and the trial all spin around in my head as I finally give up on finding things to do and head for Jason.” Jason turns off the TV. but maybe at this point. “I think so. and watches me. I just can’t. Us. isn’t it?” I ask. “Didn’t sleep at all. Do you understand that at all.” His eyes are searching too deep. Jason’s on the other. “No. And then I realize that in a way I admitted to more than not sleeping well because he walked out. “Me either. right?” I slide into my side of the bed. I’m… I’m keeping myself busy with stupid stuff like putting away our clothes and setting my toiletry bag on the counter. realizing that there’s a lot less room on a queen than on his bed.DANA A Step in the Right Direction Justine’s crashed underneath the weight of another Percocet on one of two beds in our hotel room. “The trial.” I prop up on my elbow too. we’re both facing what we know to be true. way off to one side. or are you going to hate me when I leave?” . “This is really real.” I sigh. “We both live in the real world.” I admit. props himself up on an elbow. flipping through channels. “I need to sleep. “I can’t do this right now. so we’re facing one another. and then I didn’t sleep.” “Didn’t sleep well last night?” he asks. It’s just… I’ve been thinking a lot since the DA came out. “Can I do anything?” he asks.

I step out of the bathroom in my favorite grey trousers. Dana. It’s not that I don’t want this. and black cashmere sweater.” Jason lies on his back and pats his chest in invitation. and I turn away quickly to finish my makeup in the vanity mirror. Jason’s eyes are on me. “Thanks for understanding. I know that I’m still getting over a divorce and have no business getting involved. “I’m staying in today. sell them or keep for investment… It’s really too perfect to pass up. Won’t this just make it worse for both of us? “I don’t—” “I know you’re leaving. slightly wide. I know you’re at the point in your life when you don’t want to be tied down to anyone. “Nervous about tomorrow?” “Yeah.” I slide down until my head’s resting on my pillow. and then I hope for sleep.” “Come here.” “Then you shouldn’t. “I’m sorry.” Justine says from her bed. “Shhh. .” I’m suspicious because this shouldn’t be so easy.” Jason’s arms tighten and my arms tighten in a need to be closer. fix them up. I let his arms come around me and my head rest on the warmth of his chest. then. heels.“Of course I won’t hate you when you leave.” I whisper.” He nods. Maybe he meant it when he said he wouldn’t be angry when I left. It’s exactly what I wanted to do with my business degree—take older homes and apartments. I’m just… I hate feeling like there’s nothing I can do to take away some of the stress for you. This job is a big deal for you. right?” “Huge. I feel like more myself than I have in a long time. but not directly with him. okay?” Why does he have to be so nice? And instead of rolling away and going to sleep. “I’ll get to work with my dad. I know all of this.

Justine misses nothing and tries to hide her smile as she flips stations. . “You definitely don’t look like you’re from around here.” He stands behind me and rubs my arm a few times.” Jason stands up in his soft khakis and button-up.” I pick up my purse and head for the door. “Nope. or like I disagree.“Well. “Oh. “Ready?” he asks.” I’m not sure what else to say—anything would make me sound like a snob. I am not looking forward to my day.” I glance down. “Don’t look so stressed. I’m not ready to do either.

I’m tensing because he’s moving this way. What’s probably the mother is wiping away a few tears. The family of the victim is standing together outside of the courtroom doors in the hallway. a few cameras. and I suddenly feel like I’m in the middle of an episode of Law and Order.” I shrug. I trust Jason. stupid mistake. Jason.” “Aren’t you a witness as well?” Jason asks. Aren’t you at work? Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Jason asks. Being sandwiched between the two guys should feel awkward. and a lot of people. “Craig. it looks like we’re all cozy over here. Of course. since you’re a witness. Jason moves slightly. I see press.TRIAL The first person I see after walking through security is Craig. but it doesn’t. “Well. “Because I was under the impression you two weren’t supposed to talk. Dana. . We pass the courtroom where the trial will obviously be.” Craig smiles as he stops in front of us. or to almost fill them?” He glances from me to Jason.” Craig ignores Jason as I knew he would.” He sighs. and today isn’t about him. “Didn’t take you long to fill my shoes.” “Right.” I smile. “Well.” Craig smiles as the door to our waiting room closes behind him. Dana. “Sorry. “My stupid. “They’ve got a waiting room for you.” Only inside I’m not shrugging. and are in possible need of protection. What a prick. Only a million different kinds of nerves are dancing around inside me right now. “But I’ve already seen him. “Thanks. putting himself between Craig and me.

Jason rests a hand on each shoulder. I lean my head back against wall and try to relax. So .” “You don’t need me. don’t worry. “I’ve been so selfish about this and feeling put out because of this crappy situation I was shoved in. I maintain my smile until the door closes. and I wouldn’t have been on that road. Jase. and I’d be afraid to change any of it.” When we stand up. “What the hell?” I stare at Jason. “If I wasn’t there. if I hadn’t made a wrong turn. that guy still would have been killed only no one would have seen anything and maybe nothing would have happened. You know what they say about men and shoe size and all that.” I think about what happened to me over this winter. “Thanks.” He shakes his head. It’s her party I was headed to.” Without thinking. smiling a little. Relax.” Jason just sits. “Does it all have to come back around on the same freaking day?” Jason grins. “I’ve been mad at her and what it’s done to my life and how it’s mixed things up for me and not just one or two things but everything. if she’d given me good directions. “I’ll be inside. maybe understanding that I need to talk.” Jason does a terrible job of holding in his smile as he sits and rests an ankle on his knee. “You are wicked smart and pretty damn awesome. A jury will be in there… It’s so big. Matthew will be in there. The victim’s family will be in there.I rest my hand on Jason’s shoulder. You’re fine.” Craig shakes his head and walks out. and wipe the edges of my eyes. “Oh. I put my arms around him and hold him until I’m asked to leave for the courtroom. but did you see the family of the victim out there in the hallway? He may not have been a stellar guy but he had a mom and a sister and…” I jump when someone knocks. Jase. I’m shaking like I don’t ever remember shaking before. “I was so mad at Katie for screwing me up. “You’re not worth the trouble. You busted right out of his shoes. and in this mess. I flop down next to him and give him a kiss on his cheek.

.much.

I can’t hold still as I watch Dana take the stand. I flip the coins in my pocket and pick at the seams. I wish I could do something and then wonder if this is what being around her would always be like. I want to deck the guy once or twice. The part of me that wants nothing more than to take care of her. and I can see the defense attorney flipping through his notes. I’m listening to every word. Clues as to what that night was like for her. She’s asked for every detail she can remember. She’s asked to point out the defendant. Then she talks about her car accident. the DA. but she’s calm .JASON It Would Be So Much Easier If It Were Me. She takes a few deep breaths and touches the sides of her eyes a few times. Then she talks about the mixed-up directions from her friend and how she passed these two guys on the side of the road. Part of me loves it. My hands have to fidget. and I can see her emotions start to take over. and my heart’s speeding. She holds her ground with the defense attorney. I can see her be less and less nervous as they continue on. stands up after Dana’s sworn in and asks her some basic questions. In one way it wasn’t a big deal. Mitch. I’ve never seen her this vulnerable. but does it anyway. and I’ll never know. She frowns and stares at her lap for a moment. A picture of the victim is put up. Probably because I know how much she doesn’t want to be taken care of. in another way it was a huge deal. to every nuance in her voice. Me wanting to give her something she doesn’t have the ability to take. I’m not sure. Maybe she’ll go home. and I can’t believe we’ve never talked about it. I ache for her and wish I could sit there next to her and take her hand. I want to give Dana some strength. Mitch sits down when he finishes.

” “Oh. I’m watching Dana. I don’t want to think about the boy. She’s amazing. I like that I know her well enough to see this.” Justine looks up at Dana over her cup of fries. Mitch looks pleased.” . your honor. “I’m sure it was. “I told him everything and he feels really bad. He spends even more time than Mitch had grilling her hard on all the small details. I want to give her a standing ovation when he finally sits down. She takes a breath of relief. “I think I’ll keep you with me this summer.” Justine looks pleased.” “Are both parties agreed?” The judge asks. “It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. “Yes.and collected the whole time he’s asking her questions. I will have questions when we return from lunch.” She smiles a little. and he’s hoping that I’ll be home over the summer. I meet her back in the conference room and don’t wait for a sign from her before taking her in my arms. I put down my burger as my appetite disappears. “Are you hungry?” “I don’t know. I know I should say something. Justine smiles. “And?” Dana smiles. Dana leans into me and doesn’t move.” She’s right. “Who’s Darren?” I ask. We join Justine for a quick lunch in the hotel room. “The boy you don’t want to think about.” From the defense table. your honor.” I squeeze her again. “Is this a good stopping point?” The judge asks as the defense attorney flips through his notes. “Yes. “I called Darren.” she says quietly.

we’re back to the courthouse. The worst is done. . It’s easier. All too soon lunch is over. Guess we’re back to normal now.Justine rolls her eyes. and I watch Dana take the stand as Mitch does his re-direct. This part is better.

” His head snaps toward me. “Boys. that since I was imagining.DANA Jumping In. you didn’t really need a suit at all…” His smile is open and unapologetic.” I step closer. Justine’s comatose in her room. and I think I definitely do. but I don’t know how to stay here either. “Try me. When I let myself relax and be with him. “You asked. I shake my head. I rode “the hump” in the truck all the way back from Palmer. trying to remember all the reasons that we won’t work.” . I was imagining what it would be like to spend some time in Hawaii with you. I’m not sure I came up with enough to walk away. Jason’s sort of looking off into space with a faint smile on his face.” He smirks then. “Oh. black bikini…” I nod. Everything with him should be hard because we’re so different. “And then I realized.” Jason shrugs. “Where are you?” I tease as I kick his foot. but it’s not. The courthouse feels a million miles away now that we’re back at the lodge. a small smile on my face. “I don’t think you want the answer to that. Jason’s quiet. heart hammering. “I did. not wanting to keep trying to stay away from him. and you seem like the kind of girl who would go for the simple. it’s easy. resting against Jason. because I’m thinking he might ask me to come with him.” I fold my arms. “So. I’m quiet.

but we take each other in differently this time.” He’s breathless. I love you. “Do we have a million things to talk about before we go any further?” “Yes. As soon as the door closes. but I also know I can’t just walk away. I don’t close my eyes.” I keep walking backwards. I’m there. “I’m wiped. And for probably the first time ever. the warmth of him coursing through me in waves. I want to feel everything.” My voice shakes a little because I know I’ve never felt this way for anyone before.” “I’m not falling.” I turn the handle. and feeling too much. I’m in the middle of a perfect movie moment. His arms are around me by the time my hands find the handle. There’s a lot of him to take in. . And because I know I’m walking into what may end up being a ridiculous situation. I lean forward and press our lips together. and I soak up every second of his body against mine. I’m breathless. Now I’m falling. I can feel everything. “I feel like I’m letting go of the edge of a cliff. “Not anymore. his hands touch either side of my face as he takes me in. hoping he’ll follow as I move toward his door. We’re closer. Instead of answering I kiss him with everything I have. I step back. smiling at him. Just before his lips touch mine he says. and Jason gently pushes us through—me still walking backwards. him guiding me carefully.Just as he reaches for me. “Is that where we are?” Jason whispers. He doesn’t close his. Think I’ll head to bed. Jason touches me with a soft urgency that feels like so much more than anything I could imagine. “But we have tomorrow for that. It isn’t casual anymore. I’m thrilled and scared.” I let my lips touch his as I speak. Words won’t come. not often. We know each other’s bodies.

I’ll find a way to make this work because I’m starting to understand that a person can be your safe place. I just have to figure out a way to make this last. .Jason holds me. and I don’t want to lose that. and then I need to figure out what to tell my dad. and I don’t even try to roll away. His strong arms tighten around me as we both fall into sleep.

Dana’s standing with her suitcase and a blotchy tear-stained face that she’s trying to hide by not looking at me. I drift back off. “What’s going on?” Even though part of me knows. Really hard. He’s on his way. I feel the bed wiggle and it thankfully stops. I look around. it sounds like someone is trying to be quiet and failing. “Here?” How did the man leave St. but I don’t. I feel bad for me. I’m an ass.” She sniffs a few times. I knew exactly what I was up against. It’s been a long time since I felt that content when I drifted off. I knew it the first day she was here. but doesn’t move. I know it right now. Well. and I did it anyway. and now I’ll have to go back or I don’t know what…” I should feel bad for her. over and over. “I didn’t know what to do! I knew he would react like this. then grab a hoodie and shuffle out of my room. Why did I let myself fall this way? Why? I knew. My brother finally told him about the trial and everything…” “You never told your dad?” I knew she hadn’t a while ago. Dana’s gone. I knew what the odds were. “No!” She looks frantic. Louis and us not know about it? “I had no idea he was coming. I slide out of bed and pull on the jeans I was wearing yesterday. There’s an odd buzzing sound in my dream. I hear some banging and shuffling around. but that was a while ago.JASON There’s Just No Competing With This I sleep hard. “My dad called. What the hell was I thinking? How many times will I ask myself that same damn question? . I feel bad that I let either of us get involved with the other.

‘if’. sir. I still had hope then.” Sir? Where had that come from? Dana seems lost. I glance up at her tear-stained face as she looks up at her dad. Daddy. He closes his eyes and rests his face against the side of her head. If she’s leaving. if you’re going to leave…” I shake my head and back away. sweetie?” He picks up the small suitcase Dana is holding. It feels exactly like I thought it would. Though there’s something different about her father. She shouldn’t be tied down to something like this. she just needs to go. I don’t look at her. “Is that all you need.” He smiles. not with the opportunities she has. It was like when Cass walked out that door. looking back and forth between her dad and me. She has a bit of a habit of . So did Dana when she first got here. Well . pulling her into a hug. “Yes. but she sounds hopeful. only happy to see his daughter. Jason. “I’ve been worried about you. No wonder he’s so surprised that she hadn’t said anything. He looks like her brother Keith. walks over . She steps toward him and he puts his arms around her. Dana’s doing the right thing leaving this place. The front door of the lodge opens and in walks what has to be her father. I can’t thank you enough for watching over my Dana here. I don’t see what could possibly happen here. any more pictures of her face in my head. does that mean I have another option? That I could…” Her voice is still thick with tears. “You said. I know it right then. I can also see that she and her dad are as close as she said. and shakes my hand. “Well.” she whispers. What have I been thinking? “There’s my girl!” He doesn’t look angry. “Sorry. So. she looks like money. his eyes turn to me. You’re not telling me what’s going on and…” The emotion in his voice is clear. “You must be Jason. Like I’d known it would when I let this whole thing start. for Cass and me. raising my arm between us. Even in her sweatshirt and jeans. I don’t need more torturous reminders of her. of course he does.“Dana. She just nods. but also like money. When he finally lets her go.

I force my eyes to stay on her dad. she’s chosen. Dana.getting herself into trouble. “It was…no problem.” He puts his arm around her shoulder and starts for the door. “Well. let’s go. I’m not going to look at her. Dana looks back at me then. . He’s a smart man. I still don’t know why she didn’t tell me about any of this. What’s her problem? She can do whatever she wants and she’s doing it. I have a pilot who’s just sitting out there waiting for us.” I nod. It wouldn’t be too hard to see what was going on here. trying to ignore how my chest feels trampled. almost like I’m betraying her.” He looks her direction but is still smiling indulgently. between Dana and me. I walk them to the door.

“It’s fine. hoping those words echo in his head for a while.” I’m staring at him.DANA This Isn’t How It’s Supposed To Go Just after Dad and I step outside. I break away from him and throw my arms around Jason.” Dad pulls a few bills out of his pocket. He doesn’t say anything for a moment. It slices into me again. Dad would never fly in something as average as a small plane—not unless it was a jet.” I spit out the last words. please…” I whisper. willing. “I know my Dana. and I’ve been right to not get involved with anyone. Maybe everything is bullshit. Maybe you could take care of that?” Jason raises a hand between them. I’ll mail her things down to her. I don’t care . “You can just let Justine have whatever she wants. Held me when I needed it. begging him to look at me. “Go with your dad. Why doesn’t he know what I need now? Dad rests his arm over me. but his eyes are on my dad. just hugs me back and breathes me in. and we walk toward the waiting helicopter together. He’s taken care of me. Ask me to come with you this summer. It’s no problem.” I jerk away. Jason. and I know she has more stuff here than what’s in that bag. Ask me to stay. “Oh. Here’s a few hundred bucks. “Jason. Ask me for anything. Watched me. Maybe it’s just too soon after Cass. How could he…? Maybe everything I felt was more one-sided than I thought it was. Made me laugh when I needed it. “Why didn’t you tell me about the case?” Dad squeezes me tighter. Dana. . My body starts to relax in relief when he finally speaks.

“I didn’t want you to worry.” “I hate that you’re crying.” And I’m suddenly terrified that I might have fallen in love. going to St. Louis doesn’t feel like going home. It’s just… It’s been a long week.” Dad kisses my head as we walk through the snow. and for the first time ever.” “I’m fine. . And it all turned out okay. “We’ll get you home and get you fixed right up.

.. and still berating myself for being such an idiot about the whole situation. “She went home?” Justine is shocked. I’ve been wandering around in a haze for the past few hours. and he came to get her. “You’re kidding. “Trust me. “She went home. and both of us knew that we met each other at the wrong time. Getting nothing done.” Justine insists.” “Wow. “Her dad?” Justine’s jaw drops.” I shake my head. Dana and I are just not in the same place with each other.” “Her dad came unexpectedly to pick her up. Wow. right?” “What?” Justine’s eyes narrow. “But she didn’t come say goodbye. So much for my distraction this morning. “So. “Yes.” I pop the top of my beer and take a drink. Some things aren’t meant to happen.” I laugh then. Two days ago .” I think back to last night. “Where’s Dana?” she asks again. I ignore her. but never left hers. when’s she coming back?” I look up at her. “She went home to St. and make myself some toast. Justine appears behind me. The words came out of my mouth. She doesn’t. “Where’s Dana?” Justine asks from the couch as I step back inside.” Justine sits down. we talked and laid it all out. “But you guys love each other.” I grab my breakfast and head out to one of the tables. “No Justine.JASON . She doesn’t love me. Another punch to the chest. she does. Louis?” “Her brother told her dad everything. not feeling any less shredded. pull a beer out of the fridge.

She’d be miserable up here. you have to go after her. but she chose to stay here all winter instead. “Well. she’d just graduated high school and she slept with a boy she’d liked for years and he broke her heart and she’s been able to keep boys away and that’s when she…” Justine stops. we talked. And she left anyway. don’t you see . “Did you actually ask her to stay?” “No. the one who wanted to be here and it didn’t work. I’m not doing it again for a girl who admits that she has no idea what she wants. though? She’s totally in love with you and doesn’t know it.” “Yeah. “She said that the only other time she’d been in love. This is not my favorite topic of conversation.” Justine looks at me with her best pleading eyes. “Jason. “When I told her I was pregnant. . I keep eating and staring out the window.” “Exactly. and she said no to me. “Did she know she was invited?” Shit. “She’s grown up. I know I thought about it. Haven’t you guys talked at all?” Exasperation is tinged on every word. “She loves it here. but I’m used to this from Justine and know how to ignore it. and throw my empty bottle away.” I’m looking out the window and finishing off my beer. She could have gone home a million times.” “Oh really?” Justine’s finds her best obstinate voice. wash off my plate.” I stand up.” I start for my room. she’s probably trying to suppress it because she knows that us together would be close to impossible. “And I’m not going to.” Justine watches me. “She’s the one who left. but did I invite her? I shove the thought away. She left before the best part of your year. I fought for a girl before. The part where you hang out in a beach house for free. She can say no to whoever she wants to.” “She can’t say no to her dad.” I shake my head.At least this is what I’m trying to convince myself.

walk away.” “Jus…” But I don’t get to finish. This is real life. Justine kneels in front of me. but then Justine walks in with a tear-stained face. the shower. I put Clorox in the bathtub. please tell her how you feel. and the toilet and let it wash down the drain. I pick up instead—make the bed and shut out that reminder. “This is not some movie or fun little book where everyone ends up happy in the end. Instead of whining and begging and pleading like she normally would. I fucking want her here. It isn’t the place to be. I take a few steps toward her. . Better. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing. and in real life shit happens. and slam the door to my room. she stands up and walks back out. My bed is all messed up. I know how she feels. “You know I can’t take the teary face. I don’t want to be having this conversation.“Justine?” My voice is quiet. Of course. Dana is everywhere in here.” I turn. Not edible shampoo. wondering what on earth I should say. I do. Of course. It still smells like her. Jason.” I sigh as I slump lower in my couch. she was here just hours ago. Now my bathroom smells like Clorox. please. There’s a soft knocking on my door that I try to ignore because I’m busy staring at the fireplace and feeling miserable. but I’ve talked with her. I want to tear the place apart. “If you don’t want her. I feel myself reaching for my phone. If you want her here. Still. then you’re doing the right thing. and you deal with it.

and I’ll leave this. Just not yet. We’ll talk soon. but I was afraid to. And I hit send. Letting you go this morning was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. and then make the decision you need to make. I can’t give you that.DANA Decisions… Decisions… I’ve gotten three calls from Justine that I’ve been afraid to take since I stepped into Dad’s hotel room. and instead of deleting it to move forward like I think I should. Rory. And then I get a text. I’m attaching Josh. Just ask. a run-down lodge that I’m not totally ready to leave yet. I sit down to read. Dana. There’s a part of me that still feels like what I have to offer can’t possibly be enough for any woman—definitely not a woman like you who deserves the world. Justine. From Jason. The lodge. Home. I’ll call her soon. We talked about people being . Dana – I wanted to call. They’re coming out tonight and could give you a ride home. We’re still friends. Afraid of what you would say or wouldn’t say. And then my email beeps. If you change your mind. You know what comes with me—a little sister who worships you. I shake my head. but I will. I want you to have something you can read a few times. and James’s phone numbers.

Places I love to live will come and go. or in us. or whatever we make together. not having deadlines or court cases or family pressures hanging over us sounds…perfect. and the cabins could use some personality. anyway. I jerk the straightener through my hair with too much force. . so I start to go through the motions. The happiness of being with him like that. What I can do. He wouldn’t leave that place for his wife. A big dinner at the Captain Cook Hotel before catching the jet home. You will not lose yourself in me. But I’d do anything to be the guy you come home to at the end of the day. The bathrooms still need to be changed out.our safe places. somewhere else in the world. The word love echoes through my head. but I’m still in shock over what I think I’ve decided to do. Maybe will do. The problem is that I don’t know if I’m ready to leave the lodge. sweetie?” Dad asks with a smile. but he’d leave it for me. It really is the people that are permanent—or that can be. And then maybe Jason and I could pick out another place. It feels like a project half-finished. All I know is I’m supposed to be getting ready for dinner. Dad’s. day after day. and then the hideous couches. no matter where we are. You can have your independence and be in love. The different stages of my life may happen when I don’t expect. and as scary as hell as it is to ask a girl who still isn’t sure what she wants out of life to be mine. But jobs come and go. Not for me. I just want a chance. that’s what I’m asking. I spin to face him. My hands start shaking as I realize what I might do. Jason I’m too full to know what I’m feeling. “Ready for dinner. Jason won’t be around in five years. of course. Do I want that from Jason? I know I don’t want to be without him. Could do. and do the same thing.

like there’s no way that a boy wouldn’t jump at the chance to be with his girl. I feel too frantic to sit.” He starts to walk away. “I definitely will. if he’ll take me…” “What do you mean if he’ll take you?” My dad sounds disbelieving. I graduated from school. and it changed things. “I’m so sorry. my hands clutched together. I can’t go with you. I’m going to miss it. Dad.” Dad sits on the bed facing me. Not like he deserves. We stand and stare at one another for a moment. “But if things go the way I want them to. “Yeah. “If you’re in Hawaii.” He nods. “I came up here to hide.” He smiles. and I knew that I needed to do something to show you that I could do it. “I was walking around with this mask on of who I want to portray without even realizing it. but I knew I wanted to work for you eventually. neither of us moving.” I say. and I realize I’m tearing up. “I haven’t been good to him. I slide my backpack to me and clutch it under an arm. I’m actually doing this. You should come visit. I tried to help you stay on the path that would take you there. “It’s that if I don’t take the chance. I sit on the other bed facing him. When you told me a long time ago what you wanted.” Dad reaches over and touches my face. and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. It’s that I still want to be there for now. but I love it up there. “Dana. but my insides feel like Jello. but I had no idea how to start. and this… Jason isn’t something I want to regret in five years. “Come on. He sounds like every father should. I’ll be in Hawaii all summer. not like I should.” I try to smile.” “It took me here instead. I know you wanted more from me. picking up random bits of my things and stuffing them back inside my bag.” I’m doing this.” I blink and more tears fall. Dad.“Are you okay?” Dad softly touches a corner of my eye. me still having no idea what to say to him. all I’ve wanted was for you to be happy. let’s sit.” I’m shaking. I pull out my phone to dial the number for Josh and James with . What to ask. There’s a half smile on his face. Instead I pace.” “Sit down. and then he totally saw through me. so I’m not sure how successful I am. “I love him. Dad.” I shake my head. “Jason.” I swallow but my mouth still feels too dry.

I’m okay. it bangs. I hope things work out the way you want them to. “I still need to catch my plane back home. Dad takes me into a big hug. Dad. run into the hallway. “Thank you.” I turn. This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Dad says.” “Me too. “I love you. And maybe I haven’t screwed this all up. . and dial the number I have waiting on the screen of my phone. Dad is okay. We both stand.” I pull against him hard. “And I need to get out of here before I lose my ride. Dana.shaking fingers.” My heart doesn’t pound. This is okay.

nodding her head in approval. I feel bad about leaving them. heels. and stumble backwards a step with the force. I’m still in shock she’s here. “I had to ride on the back of a snowmachine behind James!” She looks behind her and points.” She smiles. Something like. but don’t have a choice. I like being around you’ or ‘Hey Dana. but she has this weird scowl on her face. . and I’ll lose my chance. and I want to see you again. but hysterical. Justine and Boz are working at full tilt with the groups wandering in to start their weekends early. I thought you took off! I’m trying to fill your shoes here. “Weren’t you going to fight for me at all?” She reaches out and pushes my chest with both hands. She’s stunning in another pair of pants that look made for her. If I give Dana too much time.’ something!” She pushes me again and puts her hands on her hips. don’t go.’ or ‘Dana. you’re a cool chick. “I mean. Our eyes catch. you could have said something! You could have given me a real hug. What do you think?” He turns around for her to get the full effect. and she walks toward me. ‘Dana. I expect her to smile and let me take her in my arms. She takes off her coat and hands it to James. I wheel my carry-on into the main room. “Hey Dana.” Dana smiles at Justine.JASON Unexpected. Boz smiles and points to the part of his stomach that’s bulging over his pants with how he’s knotted up his T-shirt. “Dana!” Justine nearly screams it from her spot at the stove. “Nice. and a blouse that should never see the inside of a lodge. anything . “Hey. It’s pretty bad. “Wow! You look gorgeous!” Justine runs over and throws her arms around Dana. I’m afraid that logic will completely take over.

” Her voice is quieter now.. “Your dad?” I sputter. Right. How could you just let me walk away from you like that? We had this whole talk about how women want to feel like the man would fight for her.” She takes another breath then.He shrugs in mock innocence.” I’m trying to hold in my smile now. Her hands are on her hips and she’s staring at me. I didn’t mean to. I wonder what they talked about in the car all the way up here.” Her eyes are on mine before she looks me up and down once. and my brothers all sit down at a table. but nothing comes out. I love that she’s here. she has no idea I was going to come after her. She’ll take me. and we’re okay.. I’m still standing here like an idiot. “The old bathrooms and the stupid shower house and the routine and the guys and you. Her voice is quiet now. Anything. her expressions. Instead you brushed me off like a little kid!” She must be done now. I’m watching her face.” Her face falls then. “And you just told me to go. “I was headed out. It about kills me to face it. Her arms are crossed in front of her. I don’t know what to say. like her chest is heavy. “What are you all dressed up for?” she asks. her mouth. She’s here. but I figured I’d have hours on an airplane to put it all together. waiting for a response. I’d thought about it a little while I was getting ready. “I expected something from you. “In heels! He drives like a lunatic!” James laughs. I hurt her. He’s helped himself to a beer. “And I love this place. hardly slowing down. I open my mouth a few times to talk. “Out? Where…” . “Understands now that my plan has changed. She continues talking.

I’m so sorry I hurt you.” She stops then. uncertain. Something that can’t be said in a note. “Me too for which one?” She pulls her face back to look at me. and if you don’t want to stay then I’ll follow you wherever you want to go. This is not going to help. “How far were you going to go?” “If you’d be quiet for a minute…” I smile. “You’re also a pain in the ass.” I say a little louder.” I put my hands on her face and kiss her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t say it last night. She puts her hands around my neck. It’s okay. “In a couple of weeks we close this place up and head to Hawaii. “Also… I…” I look down again. too. and kisses me. I grab her even closer and pull her back into my room.” “Me too.” I touch her face and put our foreheads together. I want you to stay. She doesn’t let me finish. Jason. this is hard. “I love you. and I get a holler for that one. “Excuse us. I’m falling for you.” “But you didn’t know where I was.“I was headed out because I needed to say something to you. and I laugh. really taking in the feel of her against me and loving every second of it. the girl I love . “Nothing else?” “That’s it. Jason!” I smile. Everyone in the place is staring at us. The girl I want. I don’t take my eyes off her. I can feel every place on my body where hers is touching mine. closing the door hard with my foot. “Dana. and the girl I will never let get away from me again.” she whispers in my ear. I’m still not sure what I’m going to say. .” Somebody yells. She looks down and notices the bag at my feet. The small group cheers behind the door. and I…” I rub my forehead with my hand.” “That’s it?” She looks in my eyes carefully. “Both. “Now what?” She pulls away from me just long enough for me to answer. “Shit. “Go. I don’t care who’s watching. pulls us together.” Dana laughs. It scares the hell out of me.” I whisper back.

.

. Two more groups came in hungry. I grabbed a Denali Lodge T-shirt and tied it up so Boz and I could match. There was no point in changing my pants. maybe two. Jason came out and greeted people in his friendly easy way. and even though she’ll be spending the summer with her parents. Justine’s in agreement with me.DANA’S EPILOGUE And I Guess it all Wraps up Like it Should So. but unfortunately. she was looking for a house in Anchorage. Two weeks later. Petersville Lodge was suddenly half mine.. Then we’ll find another adventure to do together—there are some pretty cool lodge-like places in the Bahamas that are in need of fixing up. so who knows. The only thing that changed that day was I refused to leave the kitchen with an order without a kiss—and not the kind of kiss you give your grandma. the most romantic thing in the world would be for me to be able to say that after he closed the door with his foot we made love all night. and he needed help. I’m looking forward to it. the rest we’ll just take as it comes. The kind of kiss you give the girl you’re in love with. We’re in a palace on the beach. About one minute after his foot closed the door. we shut the place down for the summer. There will be no eighties’ oak in the bathrooms come snowmachine season next year. In his divorce agreement. she may end up back out here with us in the fall. Boz knocked. Jason had to buy his wife’s share of the lodge. Fortunately. “House” in Hawaii is the understatement of the year. I served late into the night in four-inch heels and three hundred dollar trousers. Jason is my constant. We’re putting at least one more year into the lodge. We haven’t decided yet. and I had one to sell. and I’m great with that. I don’t care if guys notice or not. that’s not what happened. Jason has my .

It’s early. letting the tiny straps drag in the sand. He might even like this even better. I strip down and carry my bikini in my hand as I walk toward him.black bikini laid out on the bed for me. again. No one’s out. . I can see him already heading for the water.

JASON’S EPILOGUE Life is good. really. Really. That’s all. good. .

I love that they put a Mountain Dew down in front of me without even asking . MANY hours eating pizza and stuffing myself with cheesy chili fries between snowmachine rides. “I really like that one. You read through this book in its DISASTROUS state and helped me figure out what was wrong with it. And thank you to Kenney Creek Lodge – my inspiration for Jason’s lodge. Seriously. you saint. You are all the amazing things. and him saying. and a place where I have spent MANY. “Whatever happened to that spoiled girl. snowmachine lodge story?” And me shrugging. And Christa Desir. Suzi Retzlaff.” And then me browsing through Shutterstock for some other project and running into the picture that captured this story SO perfectly that I had to have it. woman.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I have to say honestly that this story would have stayed on my computer indefinitely if it weren’t for my husband going.-) .

10 Weeks.blogspot. All I Want PARANORMAL Insight. 2013) You can find Jolene on the web at www.com . Spill Over. Seeker (June1.com and on her blog at www.Other Titles by Jolene Perry Night Sky. Dizzy. Manipulation (February 1.jolenesbeenwriting. Knee Deep.jolenebperry. My Heart for Yours. 2013).

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